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The Prince's Allegiance

Chapter Text

***



It was the hardest decision Toshinori ever had to make. It’s not a decision he ever wanted to make. But he had to make it, had to make it as his land was set on fire village after village. Because Endeavour was on the move again and with Enji at its head, its army was more vicious than ever. It was also less forgiving and didn’t take pity on the women or children. Toshinori also knew that Enji would have absolutely no pity, compassion, or the barest shred of humanity for the heir of All Might.

The heir of All Might. The child that would one day rule Yuuei. The child destined to inherit One For All. The child who would, in time, become the next All Might and, consequently, Endeavour’s greatest rival.

“All Might, sire.”

Toshinori pulled himself away from the window long enough to face his manservant and also...and also his wife. His beautiful Inko, smiling as tears slipped down her face. “It’s alright,” she murmured. “I always thought this might-”

“I didn’t,” Toshinori choked out, head bowing. “I wanted...I wanted you two, for both of you to-...”

Inko cupped his cheek, drawing him down until their foreheads were pressed together, guiding his hands to her rounded stomach. “I know, Toshinori, I know.”

“Toshinori, please.”

Toshinori’s wearily lifted his head, frowning at Tsukauchi who held his hands up. “My apologies Your Majesty but your army is poised for battle.” He glanced at Inko sadly. “If there is a time to say goodbye, it is now.”

Toshinori swallowed against the lump in his throat. He then nodded, pulling away. “Of course. We must...there is no time.”

Inko set her own face, accepting the shawl Tsukauchi offered her and wrapping it around her head. “And to think, you complained when I suggested we be wed in secret.”

Toshinori flushed. “Is it so wrong to wish to show my bride off?” That earnt him a flush of his own, to which he grinned. He then ran a hand over her stomach again. “May I...at least, may I offer a name?”

Inko’s smile trembled ever so slightly. “You will see him one day.”

Toshinori did his best to roll his eyes. “I will believe you as much as you believe that old woman’s quirk.”

Inko teasingly scowled at him. “This child of yours is a boy Toshinori and all she did was confirm what I already knew. But please, we are out of time. You must have a name in mind.”

“I...I have always liked Izuku.”

“...come visit, when Enji is defeated.”

“I will,” Toshinori vowed. “Though it may take some time.”

“If I may,” Tsukauchi said, glancing at Toshinori and getting his permission before speaking. “I believe we once spoke of disguising the child, should the worst happen. Since the worst is to happen...would it not be wise to…?”

Toshinori’s expression turned grim. “Inko.”

She near flinched at the tone, knowing it was one Toshinori only ever used on royal occasions, in court, or when sentencing others.

“To keep Izuku truly safe even his name will be hidden. Of course, on palace records he will exist - Prince Izuku he’ll be titled. But until there is at a time in which the kingdom of Yuuei is safe, unless you are truly alone, I must ask he be called Deku.”

Inko’s mouth dropped open. “Toshinori! That is...For just a boy, that’s too cruel.”

Toshinori barely managed to hold firm, voice shaking. “I...I will not risk him being found by King Enji, or his men. This...is our best disguise.”

Maybe she saw something in his face, maybe she heard the shake in his voice. But either way, Inko’s shoulders slumped, nodding. “I...I understand.” She then beckoned him close, kissing him one last time. “Go, your men await. I will be fine on my journey. Yuuei needs you All Might.”

Toshinori brushed their noses together. “I almost wish it didn’t,” he murmured before pulling away, shoulders set. “Tsukauchi, see to it that Inko has safe travel out of the city in the direction of Shizuoka. Once that is done, meet me at the stables. We ride out at dawn.”

“Yes sire.”

And like that, as simply as that, Toshinori watched as his wife and future child disappeared from his life. He could only hope that one day, should he be fortunate enough, he would see them again.



***

Five Years Later



“Come on Deku!”

“W-wait Kacchan!”

Izuku pouted as Katsuki just ran further head, showing off his quirk. It...it wasn’t his fault he wasn’t fast enough. His quirk still hadn't come in yet but he was sure it would. His mother had a quirk, he’d heard his father had had a quirk, so of course he was going to get one. It just...it was just taking a little longer. But that was probably because his quirk was going to be really cool!

“Deku, hurry up!”

Izuku quickly scurried the last few metres, scrambling onto the log that crossed the stream and following Katsuki. He was nearly halfway across when Katsuki turned to him, a grin spreading across his face.

“Hey Deku, now’s a good time to find your quirk.”

And with that, he pushed Izuku as hard as he could. Izuku landed in the water with a tremendous splash, air rushing out of his lungs as the cold submerged him. Spluttering as he surfaced, Izuku glared up at his friend, tears forming in his eyes.

“T-that was mean Kacchan!”

Katsuki simply scoffed. “And you’re just a quirkless Deku.”

Izuku didn’t look back. He just ran. He ran and he ran, all the way home.

 

***

 

“-itsuki, it’s winter. Katsuki shouldn-”

“Yeah, I know. I spoke with that brat.”

“I...my son may be quirkless but…”

“Inko, I said I spoke with him.”

The front door slammed and Izuku buried himself further under the covers, naked except for his blanket. His clothes were laid out on the hearth below, hopefully drying before they ran out of wood.

“Izuku?”

Izuku didn’t say anything. He heard a sigh and felt the mattress move as his mother sat down. Her hand found his back and rubbed it soothingly.

“Izuku? Please talk to me.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku sniffed. “I...I made M-Mitsuki angry with you M-mama and...a-and Kacchan won’t be my friend b-because I...I’m a...I’m a Deku.”

His mother bundled him up, blankets and all. “Izuku, my Izuku. You will never be worthless or useless.”

Izuku blinked up at her. “But you call me Deku too!” He abruptly pushed her away, tears forming again. “I-It’s because...because I’m quirkless! I know! I’m useless!”

Izuku froze as two hands grabbed his shoulders, forcing him still. His mother was suddenly looking at him with a look he had never seen before. It almost made him...afraid. It was like...like she was a king, or a queen. “Mama…?”

“Midoriya Izuku, you are never useless or worthless and you are never to say those words again while I can hear it! As for the name Deku...well, one day you’ll know but for now it’s enough to simply own it. You will always be Izuku to me, to the people that matter.”

Izuku’s bottom lip wobbled and, before he knew it, he was flinging his arms around his mother, sobbing and sobbing. He promised her he would get a good quirk, that he would do his best, and that one day he’d grow to be strong! Inko hugged him and kissed him, nursing him until he fell asleep. Once he was snoring softly, Inko made her way down the stairs, reaching into the cupboard behind the lard until she found a small, wooden box. Inside was some parchment, an inkwell, and a quill. Working quickly, she began to write. Within minutes she was outside, whistling for Yami. The raven came down, bowing its head and allowing her to attach the scroll to his leg.

“To All Might.”

 

***

 

Toshinori’s head snapped up when he heard a beak tapping against his bedroom window. It wouldn’t have grabbed his attention quite so much except for the fact that only one bird was trained to come to his window specifically. Every other one was sent to the aviary. Pushing himself out of his chair, Toshinori hurried over to the window. There, just as he had suspected, was Yami. The raven was almost hidden by the night sky and the state of his feathers shown he had flown for some many days.

Reaching over to his table, Toshinori passed Yami some scraps from his supper, the bird happily snapping up a piece of meat before flying up into the rafters.

The letter was as impersonal as possible, as they always were, but Toshinori still felt as though love permeated through the page somehow.



Dearest T

I hope this letter finds you well. We are well here too. I worry for the youngest though.



Toshinori froze. “The youngest” was the code phrase they had developed for Izuku. Had...was it possible something had happened to him? Toshinori quickly read on, alarm turning into something more like heartache.



He is very disheartened to have reached five years of age and received no quirk. Although I comfort him, the other children in the village tease him terribly. He does his best but his tears break my heart.

I don’t mean to bother you with this, there is simply no one else who would understand. Make no mistake though, he is well and grows a little more every day. Why, he nearly reaches my waist now. He grows in kindness too. I’m certain you share my pride.

All our love from the green valleys.



“The Green Valleys.” The Midoriyas. His wife, his child. His son, barely five, who already had to deal with slander and insults. He was not even royalty yet, a palace plaything. And yet he was subjected to hardships nonetheless. And crying, had Inko said? Toshinori quickly re-read, paper shaking in his hands. Because of his blood, his son was crying, hurting.

And just like that, his decision was made.

Pushing open the door closest, Toshinori was unsurprised to find Tsukauchi still awake. His ever faithful manservant took one look at his face and sighed. “I don’t suppose there is any chance I could talk you out of whatever this is?”

Toshinori smiled, shaking his head. “I’m afraid not.”

Tsukauchi glanced at the paper in his hands before getting to his feet, hands clapping together. “Right. What do I need to prepare?”

 

***

 

Toshinori had to admit, he was glad Tsukauchi had organised this expedition, if he could call it that. There was a lot that could be said about the sheltered life of living only in the palace. Yes, Toshinori had been outside the walls many a time - Yuuei wasn’t a nation that ruled from above and detested its people - but there were so many things he just wasn’t aware of. Had he tried to organise this covert mission, they surely would have failed. How was he to know that they had to buy different horses as their horses were not the type suited for the countryside? Or that their clothes, even those of the lowest quality, were still too fine to fool people outside the palace? That carrying gold was unheard of, and they should only carry a few silvers and many coppers?

All in all, it was rather jarring. Toshinori could only be thankful though that this was the life Izuku led. He would not be as blind as Toshinori was. He would understand the people as he was from the people. In some ways, the wrath of Endeavour would perhaps prove to be useful.

“I still say this idea is one of your worst,” Tsukauchi told him as they reached the outskirts of the village, Shizuoka.

Toshinori sent him a grin. “You’ve been by my side long enough to know I rarely have good ideas.”

Tsukauchi scoffed. “Your ideas are usually rather good. Your bad ideas, however...well, they’re often very bad. I only pray you can remember your own lies - you have a tendency to be honest to a fault sire.”

Toshinori laughed, leaning over to whack his companion on the back. It didn’t really do much in his weakened form but Tsukauchi had the grace to look hurt before leading him into the village. The sun was starting to dip over the horizon so he led them to the one shop that still seemed to open; some sort of apothecary from the looks of it. Dismounting, they hadn’t even had time to reach the door before it was thrown open, a blonde woman blocking the entrance.

“Couldn’t have picked a worse time to come into town, could you?” she scoffed, hands on her hips. “I’m supposing you want someone to put you up too?”

Toshinori went to bow in apology but Tsukauchi subtly nudged him in the side. Right, it probably wasn’t custom to bow to each other in a place like this; a place with equal standings and without ranks.

“Our journey was longer than we expected,” Tsukauchi said, adding a drawl Toshinori had not heard in near ten years, when Tsukauchi had enlisted from one of the northern, seafaring villages. “And we’re not to be put up, ‘cept maybe the horses depending. We’re here to see someone, as it were.”

The imposing woman raised her eyebrows. “Oh yeah? Causing trouble are you?”

Tsukauchi shook his head, jerking a thumb at Toshinori. “We...ah, that is to say, Shino here...well…” he lowered his voice, leaning in closer. “He served and fought with a fellow called Hisashi some five years ago. He’s blamed himself ever since and finally mustered the courage to apologise in person to Hisashi’s wife.”

“Huh.” The woman’s voice was softer, though her eyes raked over “Shino” firmly. “Yeah, I know Inko. Her son and mine are best friends. Weedy little thing he is.”

Toshinori choked. “A-a son...You...you’ve seen him?”

Something in his voice must have done it, the shopkeeper smiling sadly. “Hisashi never tell you that did he? S’pose not, he died very soon after the kid was born. Maybe he didn’t even know.” She pointed at a cottage near the forest. “That’s Inko’s house. You cause any trouble and I’ll set Katsuki on you. And don’t judge him by his size,” she warned. “His quirk isn’t one to mess with.”

“Thank you,” Toshinori managed, voice shaking more than he would like.

“Yeah, yeah, and leave the horses,” came the demand. “There’s no room there and we’ve got stalls out back. Real good ones.”

Tsukauchi made a face, though he was already reaching into his vest. “How much for a night’s stay?”

He was met with a sharp grin. “Two silvers each but through in an extra five coppers if you want a brush down.”

“I bet you’re the only one with stables in town if you can charge like that,” he grumbled - all for the sake, they had plenty of money and Toshinori made sure to look extra glum as the coins were handed over.

“None of that! Your horses will be good as new. Bakugou Mitsuki by the way.” She waved brightly, a little too brightly. Toshinori was certain her family would be eating well for awhile. He had to hide a grin behind his coat. Good.

Tsukauchi was already heading across the town square though, swerving past an old well to reach the house Mitsuki had pointed out. There was soft murmuring coming from inside, though that cut off the second Tsukauchi rapped on the door. Something scurried around on the house’s upper floor and then footsteps came from within. When the door eased open, Toshinori’s throat closed. God have mercy, there was Inko. His first and only love standing before him for the first time in a good five years. Her mouth fell open at the sight of him, going to speak only to have Tsukauchi cut in.

“Shino here is a friend of your deceased husband. He is here to pass along his respects and offer an apology for the guilt he feels.”

Inko blinked just once before nodding, pasting on a pained face and adding reluctance as she invited them. After all, in a small town appearances had to be kept and Toshinori was very sure he didn’t hear the door of the Bakugou’s shop shut until he and Tsukauchi had stepped inside. So, it was that sort of town then. He was, in that moment, very thankful for Inko’s quick mind. It was, in fact, one of the things that had drawn Toshinori to her in the first place; that and her unending kindness.

Once the door was locked and the curtains drawn, his wife rounded on him. “Toshinori, you shouldn’t be here! Why are you here? It’s far too risky for you to be here. If someone were to recognise you, it would-”

“Mama?”

Toshinori gulped and Inko’s eyes shut in resignation. “In a minute Izuku.”

By the gods that...that was what his son’s name sounded like coming from Inko’s mouth. “Inko, can I no-”

Inko stared up at him, eyes glistening with tears but also frowning. “Toshinori, you have no idea what I’m feeling right now! Of course I am happy to see you but...but it isn’t safe for you and that means it isn’t fair for him.”

“Mama?” Izuku’s voice was more insistent this time, firmer. Toshinori looked up to try and catch a glimpse of him but he was still hidden. “Are you...Mama, you sound like you’re crying.”

Inko swallowed back a sob, finally letting her head thud against Toshinori’s chest. “You are such a fool.” She then pulled him down with trembling hands, lips brushing together for just the barest of seconds. “Izuku? Come down here please.”

There came soft foot falls and Toshinori looked over Inko’s head to see a young boy tentatively climb down the stairs. His throat promptly closed up. Yes, Izuku was everything Mitsuki had said he was but he was also so, so much more. His eyes and hair matched Inko’s colouring perfectly, though the wildness in his hair matched Toshinori’s own. His skin was dusted with freckles and a shade or two paler than his. But there was also a sharpness to his eyes, something that showed intelligence and a quick wit but...but by the gods, was there kindness too. That kindness shone when Toshinori’s eyes began to prickle and Izuku immediately turned concerned.

“Sir?” he murmured, stepping closer and sliding his hand into Inko’s. “Are you...are you alright?”

Toshinori looked at Inko even as she was wiping her eyes. “M-May I?”

Inko chewed on her bottom lip before nodding. “Yes, I think so.”

With permission granted, Toshinori locked eyes with Izuku. “It’s alright now my boy. Why?” He unleashed One For All through his body, form rapidly expanding. “Because I am here!”

Izuku’s eyes widened exponentially and he let out a strangled squeak before Inko slapped a hand over his mouth. “Hush Izuku,” she whispered, crouching down as Toshinori did the same.

“B-but Ma-Mama, that’s…t-that’s...A-All Might!

Somewhere behind him Tsukauchi chuckled and Toshinori would have turned to scold him had Izuku not chosen that moment to cautiously step towards him. In return, Toshinori held out a hand. Izuku stared at it for a long moment before gently resting his own in it. He then let Toshinori pull him in, flinging his arms around his neck when he was close enough. Toshinori hugged him with everything he had, struggling to bite back tears because this was Izuku. This was everything he had ever wanted and everything he had missed. This was his biggest regret being handed back to him, even if just for this moment.

Izuku gave him one more big squeeze before pulling away just enough to press their foreheads together. Toshinori smiled at the gesture, returning it by leaning down so their noses touched. “Izuku.”

“Papa.”

Inko sucked in a sharp breath as Toshinori froze. Izuku was already throwing himself back in alarm, arms flailing. “U-uh, s-sorry All M-might! I didn’t...that is, I mean...I didn’t...you’re not...Mama?” he asked frantically, begging for help.

Inko regained her composure enough to laugh, sweeping Izuku into her arms with practised ease, brushing their noses together. “He’s not mad Izuku.”

Izuku looked at Toshinori with wide eyes, hands clutching Inko’s dress nervously. “R-really All Might?”

Izuku made a little surprised noise when Toshinori plopped a hand on his head, ruffling his hair gently. “Really my boy.” He then glanced between Inko and Tsukauchi, getting nods from both of them. “Actually Izuku, there is a reason I have come all this way. To not just speak to your mother, but to you as well.”

“M-me?” Izuku stammered. “But I’m quirkless and you’re All Might and...and I don’t think you want to talk to me. I’m...I’m useless, I’m Deku.”

Hearing the boy say that name so tearfully, Toshinori reached out to lift his chin, thumbing his tears away. “Mm, indeed. For now.”

Izuku looked at Inko quizzically before letting himself be led to the hearth. Toshinori grimaced at the distance to the floor before swapping out of his muscled form. Izuku’s mouth dropped open, questions only stopping because Inko gripped his hands lightly. To Toshinori it was amazing, how in sync they were. However, as Tsukauchi sat down beside him and Inko threw another two logs on the fire, Toshinori began to explain. And he told Izuku everything.

He spoke about the five kingdoms - Yuuei, Endeavour, Riot, Ingenium, Uravity - that were divided by war and only holding on by the barest peace treaties. He spoke about the quirk that was One For All, a quirk that had to be physically passed from one user to another, that every All Might that had come before him had been quirkless. He also told Izuku the most important thing of all: his lineage. How he and his mother had wed in secret, how she had bravely hidden away to keep him safe, how, one day, Izuku would rule over Yuuei.

By the end, Izuku was trembling in his mother’s lap. “You...All Might is really...Papa?”

Toshinori nodded only to wince when Izuku shivered.

“Then...King Enji, the flame king...he wants to hurt me an-and Mama.”

Toshinori didn’t know what to say to that, so thankful when Tsukauchi stepped in. “No, because he doesn’t know about you. You’re...hidden.”

His boy suddenly gasped, whirling around to face Inko. “I’m Deku!” It was like all the pieces joined together in his mind. “That’s why I’m Deku! To h-hide and...and keep everyone safe!”

Inko nodded, cupping his face with her hands. “Then you know,” she said, “That you absolutely cannot tell anyone. Not even Katsuki.”

Toshinori’s ears perked up even as Izuku pouted. “I can’t even tell Kacchan?”

No one,” Inko repeated cut in firmly. “We’re here to keep everyone in Yuuei safe Izuku. Everyone.”

That seemed to do the trick, Izuku nodding. “But one day...I’ll...I’ll have a quirk like...l-like All Might and th-then we’ll all be safe!”

Inko smiled at him sadly, pulling him close. “I hope so Izuku.”

Toshinori shuffled forward until he was close enough to rest a hand on Izuku’s shoulder. “We will all do our best my boy.”

Izuku turned to smile at him. “A-and even better, I have a mama and a papa now!”

Toshinori barely stopped himself ripping Izuku out of Inko’s arm so he could hold him himself. One thing was certain though: he would not abandon them. Not again.

 

***

 

After Inko and Izuku had gone to bed, Toshinori and Tsukauchi spent the night entangled in hushed whispers. Because as much as Toshinori didn’t want to abandon Izuku, or his wife, again, he also wasn’t going to drag them into danger. And so, there had to be a way around that and by sunrise, Toshinori thought he had it. Once Inko had completed her morning rounds, Toshinori would put it to her. He could only hope she agreed.

But the morning rounds came first and Toshinori and Tsukauchi pottered after the Midoriyas. Within seconds of leaving the house a blond boy came barrelling across the square, explosions bouncing around in his palms. Toshinori heard Tsukauchi’s sucked in breath and yes, he agreed. A quirk like that would be readily sought after in their army and a part of him was already making note to find out who this child was while another part was scolding him on even thinking about enlisting a child when he came of age. The boy in question came to a halt at their side, dirt kicking up in his wake and a smile that more resembled a sneer on his face.

“Oi Deku, who’s this?”

Izuku shrunk down at the boy’s tone, Inko covering for him with a scolding yet fond look at Izuku. “You know the answer; don’t be so frightened. And Katsuki, this is an old friend. His name is Shino and brought with him-”

“Yeah, yeah, don’t care,” the boy cut in, tone brash in a way that Toshinori suddenly recognised. Ah, the woman from last night. So this was Katsuki, or Kacchan, Izuku’s friend. “We’re going exploring. You coming shitty Deku?”

Izuku nodded firmly, peeling himself away from Inko and barely remembering to send her a wave as he ran after his friend. “Bye Mama!”

Toshinori watched him go, wincing when the boys around Katsuki started laughing at Izuku. He went to mention it to Inko when he saw he pained face and yes, of course. She was the one who had written to him in the first place about this very issue. She knew more than he could ever dream to. And if she could bare it...well, then he would have to too, king or not.

“The forests here are safe?” Tsukauchi questioned as the boys disappeared into the woods.

Inko hummed, eyeing up some vegetables before handing them to the vendor. “They’re safe enough. And...Deku’s safe with them. Despite their differences, they do look out for each other. Especially Katsuki and Deku. Although...Katsuki has a tendency to be cruel and has a temper that’s too short for comfort.”

The way she hesitated on ‘Deku’ showed Toshinori she displeased the name now as much as she had when he had first enforced it. A necessary evil, as it were.

Helping her as much as she would allow, Toshinori lowered his voice as they made their way back towards the cottage. “Tsukauchi and I have a proposal we would like to make, though I admit it’s mostly my idea.” Inko frowned but nodded for him to continue. “As Yuuei is the only kingdom without an apparent heir, I realise that visiting princes and princesses will have no means of company while they are here. If you would permit me-”

Toshinori was abruptly cut off as Inko smiled at Tsukauchi before slamming the door in his face. She then rounded on him with something almost akin to horror. “You wish to move Izuku to the capital. Toshinori! - you sent us away to protect us from that very place! You cannot go back on your word after just one visit.” She folded her hands in front of her stiffly. “It is...unbecoming of a king.”

Toshinori flinched. “Yes, it is true I have only seen Izuku once but I am realising now that that was a fault on my behalf. I am trying to raise a kingdom not ruled by fear and yet I am the most fearful of all. I do not trust Endeavour nor King Enji’s treaties but I am now also realising he does not dictate what I should do with my family.”

Inko shook her head. “I will not move Izuku for you. I am sorry Toshinori, but I will not. Not until he is of age to protect himself.”

It was a reasonable demand, Toshinori guiding them both to sit before making sure he had Inko’s gaze. “And if I proposed not to move Izuku at all?” Inko frowned in confusion and he leapt at the chance. “As I said, the other kingdoms all have heirs Izuku’s age. To not host them properly would bring shame upon Yuuei. If, however, they were to be assigned a personal escort in the form of a servant’s son who could entertain them and keep them company. As quirkless he is harmless and makes his disguise plausible…”

The sudden gasp made Toshinori aware that Inko had understood in full what he was asking. “You plan for Izuku to form alliances without even realising. He would simply make friends, grow together with these people until...until they are all of age and ready to rule and by then...by then the bonds of friendship will have solidified.”

Toshinori clasped her hands tightly. “Imagine Inko. Imagine a Yuuei that is united with all the other kingdoms not through flimsy treaties but through true relationships built on trust.” He squeezed her fingers as firmly as his weak form would allow. “Izuku can bridge that gap. He is the only one who can.”

Inko’s eyes shied from his. “Then, a condition on my part. Izuku...Izuku must be allowed to do this for himself. You will not force questions upon him or harass him for answers. He will be free to make friends as he sees fit. And also…” Her head bowed. “I ask you find someone competent to mind him in my stead.”

Toshinori lifted her head with a finger. “My dear Inko, there is no one more fit to raise their child than their mother.”

Inko’s breath stuttered. “Then I-...I may…”

“The palace will always be open to you,” Toshinori said, kneeling down and resting his forehead against their clasped hands. “As your husband, I have done many wrongs by you and there is much of our life together which we did not get to either enjoy nor experience. If I would be permitted to do right by you even on the odd occasion, I would be very glad indeed.”

There were soft fingers in his hair, toying with it gently. “All Might, it does a king no good to bow.”

“Then perhaps you understand how sincere my apology is.”

“Then I should tell you it is not needed.” She leant down to kiss the top of his forehead. “And of course my answer is yes. It always seems to be with you.”

 

***

 

It didn’t happen overnight - it couldn’t - but plans were put in place from the very next day. “Shino” and his friend would return to their village and then ask Inko to visit in return. Inko would accept, only to head to the capital instead. There she would be disguised as a servant and Izuku would have to be nothing more than what he was: her son. A nobody in the castle staff’s eyes. Only after dark would Izuku’s training take place; nothing important, merely being taught etiquette and correct procedures for addressing royalty. And if he dogged Inko’s steps during the day and learnt the layout of the castle at an alarming speed, Toshinori could only see it as a good thing.

All of it, everything, had led them to this day. Even the heated argument with Inko last night had led to this day. It led to Toshinori kneeling down outside the Great Hall and taking Izuku’s shoulders in his hands. “You remember the plan my boy?”

Izuku nodded, though his weight shifted from foot to foot nervously. “I...I don’t talk unless I am asked to and I...don’t even look at King Enji. And I can only, only, only call myself Deku.”

Toshinori nodded, pressing their foreheads together and shooing the boy off. He then met Tsukauchi’s gaze firmly.

“If Enji is fooled then my faith in this strategy will be solid. If he does not and realises Izuku’s true identity...we must prepare for war.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Giving Izuku time to slip around to the servant’s entrance and enter the hall, Toshinori allowed Tsukauchi to fix his robe one last time, adjusting the fabric so it fell just so. “If this meeting does not go well, it could throw the five kingdoms into jeopardy.”

Tsukauchi shot him a look. “That, sire, is something I believe you should discuss with your council, not your manservant. I have little interest in politics.”

Toshinori frowned back only to glimpse movement out of the corner of his eye. Ah, Endeavour’s party had arrived and of course they were eavesdropping. It made Toshinori want to tear his eyes out. Their five lands would be in peace if Endeavour just stopped being so difficult, so greedy, so downright power-hungry. Hiding a scowl in his collar, Toshinori marched into the Great Hall, barely having time to sit himself down before the doors were thrust open again, King Enji’s arrival being announced.

The flame king then strode into the hall, the entire room heating up in his presence. To his right Izuku flinched but Toshinori dutifully ignored it. He was not the boy’s father right now, he was All Might, King of Yuuei.

“Enji!” he greeted, voice booming throughout the room. “It’s been too long since we last saw each other. I hope Endeavour is doing well!”

Enji’s eye twitched but he gave a subtle bow of the head - it could pass as a respectful greeting...just. “You’re as overzealous as always.”

Toshinori laughed loudly, putting on the carefree persona he was known to have. Leaving his throne, he approached Enji and his men only to frown. “But where are the princes? I believe you sired four children, did they not accompany you?”

Enji snorted. “Only one is worthy to inherit the throne.” With a flick of a hand, a boy came to his side. “This is the Crown Prince, Shouto, heir of Endeavour.”

Toshinori saw the test for what it was immediately. The young prince, five, six at best, had a large scar covering the left side of his face. It was...unsightly, certainly, but all Toshinori could feel was sympathy. To be so young and yet so injured. But the challenge lay there, to not mention it. And not mention it he did.

“Shouto?” he repeated, though he spared the boy a short bow. “Last time was I not introduced to Touya and Natsuo? You have my sincere condolences if the worst should have happened to them.”

“The worst being their quirks are not suitable for being the ruler of Endeavour?” Enji sneered. “Their quirks were weak, pale in comparison to Shouto’s. Had Fuyumi inherited Shouto’s quirk, she would have been named Queen but it falls to Shouto to be my perfect creation.” Enji gripped the boy’s shoulder and Toshinori wasn’t blind to the way said boy froze at the touch. “Show him, Shouto.”

Shouto hesitated before reaching out his hand, ice forming across his palm and spreading rapidly. Toshinori dropped to one knee, tentatively touching the ice. “That’s a wonderful quirk my b-”

Smack.

His words failed the second Enji’s hand made contact with Shouto’s face, the boy stumbling and barely managing to stand. The look he gave Enji in return was nothing short of murderous.

“Don’t you dare embarrass me Shouto.”

Shouto’s hands balled into fists, meeting his father’s gaze coolly. “I will never use my left. Not after what you did to Moth-”

A hand was abruptly slapped over his mouth. “You know not of what you speak, boy.”

Toshinori quickly held his hands up, attempting to placate them before a fight broke out. “Enji, please, we are here to review our two lands’ treaties. If Prince Shouto is...acting out, shall we say, perhaps I can offer a solution?”

Enji raised an eyebrow and Toshinori quickly jumped in.

"How about one of my servant's children entertain the young prince?" he asked, gesturing at where Izuku was meekly standing against the wall of the throne room. "He has had experience with many noble children and will bring no harm to the prince."

Endeavour scoffed, dragging Shouto back when he started to lean towards Izuku. "Harmless? I'm sure."

"He is quirkless."

Endeavour's eyebrows rose. "Quirkless? In this day and age?" He laughed, a horrible, grating sound. "Very well, I permit Shouto to be in his company. At the very least, should your servant’s boy do anything to him, Shouto will have a chance to test his quirk." He waved Izuku over, Izuku trembling as he scurried over. "And what is your name, boy?"

"D-deku, your Majesty," Izuku stammered, bowing deeply.

Endeavour sneered. "How fitting."

He dismissed them with a gesture, Toshinori watching as Izuku led Shouto out of the room. 'I'm sorry Izuku.'

 

***

 

Once out of the hall, Izuku felt as though he could finally breathe. His body still shook but he didn’t feel like he was going to be potentially killed any second. Sighing with relief, Izuku turned to Prince Shouto, hand reaching out to rest on his cheek. “Are you oka-”

“Don’t touch me!”

Izuku yanked his hand back just as Shouto tried to strike him. It was difficult to say who looked more shocked, him or the prince. Still, Izuku quickly bowed. “I’m sorry! I just...I w-wanted to make sure you w-weren’t hurt…”

Shouto’s eyes dropped to the ground. “I...I am fine. I shouldn’t have tried to hit you.”

Izuku let himself grin, bouncing a little closer. “Are you really sure you’re f-fine? I...There’s a lovely nurse here - my mother introduced me to her! She can make you feel better like that!” He snapped his fingers for emphases.

Shouto shook his head. “It didn’t hurt very much. Besides,” he said, covering his hand with a sheen of ice and pressing it to his cheek, “This works just as well.”

That got him a pout, Izuku clearly unimpressed. Still, he didn’t argue and instead just smiled wider. “Well, if you’re really, really sure than we can explore. Is there something you want to see?”

“I…” Shouto shrunk back ever so slightly. “I have never been given the choice before.”

“That’s silly,” Izuku laughed, Shouto balking because this servant’s child had indirectly called his father, King Enji, silly! That surely wasn’t allowed. “We can see the gardens then,” Izuku continued on, holding out a hand. “Come with me?”

There was a beat and then Shouto was tentatively sliding his hand into Izuku’s. Izuku grinned and practically dragged Shouto to the gardens. He’d loved exploring them with his mother and there were many pretty flowers out at the moment. Some of them even had petals that were two different colours - just like Shouto’s hair! That had to be funny, right? Well, Izuku thought it was funny anyway.

The prince was quiet as he let himself be pulled along but he didn’t seem to be complaining. If he was really upset, he would have used his quirk and Izuku hadn’t seen any sign of that yet. That also led him to another question.

“You told King Enji you wouldn’t use your left. What does that mean?”

Shouto stumbled briefly before coming to a stop, hand dropping from Izuku’s. “It means...I won’t use my left side, my fire quirk.”

Izuku’s eyes widened. “You have a fire and an ice quirk? That’s amazing Shouto!”

“...you’re supposed to call me Prince Shouto.”

“Oh...s-sorry!” Izuku giggled nervously. “I just...you’re the same age as me and I...I forgot you were a prince. You seemed more like a friend and I don’t call my friends princes.”

Shouto blinked several times before his eyes lit up. “Can I truly be your friend?”

Izuku nodded fervently. “Of course! Everyone can be my friend.”

His new “friend” went oddly silent at that but Izuku didn’t let it deter him. Instead, he took Shouto’s hand once more and continued their earlier walk. Before long they were at the gardens and, after much persuasion, Izuku was finally able to get Shouto to open up. They played tag and hide-and-seek. They climbed trees and splashed in the fountains. They mimicked the calls of the birds in the trees and chased a grasshopper from one bush to another.

Throwing himself onto the ground when the insect finally managed to escape, Izuku stared up at the clouds. “Want to see what shapes we can find Shouto?”

Shouto cautiously sat next to him, leaning back on his hands to look at the sky. “...is Yuuei always this much fun?”

Izuku frowned. “We’re just playing. Kacchan and me do it all the time.”

Shouto matched his frown. “Kacchan? Is that...is he also a friend of yours?”

He nodded excitedly. “Yeah! And he has a cool quirk too...a-and you can’t tell him - ever! - but Shouto’s a little nicer than Kacchan!”

The prince flushed pink. “Thank you, uh…I don’t…”

“It’s Deku!” Izuku supplied cheerfully.

“Right...Deku.” Shouto mulled over that name before pointing at a cloud. “That looks like a rabbit.”

Izuku squinted before laughing loudly. “No it doesn’t! The rabbit lives in the moon Shouto! That’s, that’s...a-a...an elephant!”

“Deku, that isn’t an elephant.” Izuku only laughed harder at Shouto’s serious tone, earning him his first tiny smile. “And rabbits don’t live in the moon. That’s a man. He watches over us.”

Izuku poked his tongue out. “Mama says it’s a rabbit so it’s a rabbit!”

He then scurried closer when Shouto quickly looked away, shoulders shaking.

“Sh-Shouto?”

Shouto hugged his knees tightly. His next words were aimed at the ground. “Father...he took...he took Mother away after she…” He pointed at the scar on his face. “She did this but...it was Father. He made her do it.”

“I’m sorry.” The words slipped out before Izuku realised, gingerly reaching for Shouto’s hand and lacing their fingers together. “I’m sorry your papa made your mama hurt you. But.” Izuku’s grip tightened. “If your papa’s mean then someone has to look after you! And if your mama’s not around then I have to!” With the endearing confidence of a five-year-old, Izuku leant over and kissed the spot King Enji had struck earlier. “There! - now it’s all better.”

Shouto stared at him dumbfoundedly, hand flying to his cheek. Izuku simply smiled at him, perking up when a bell started ringing. “Come on Shouto, that’s the supper bell! You have to be on time!”

Scrambling to their feet, the boys raced back to the castle. As they neared the dining hall, Izuku pulled them to a walk, making sure to catch their breath before entering. Izuku let Shouto reach the table before stepping back, head bowed and avoiding King Enji’s gaze, just like his father had told him. That crippling fear was back and it took everything in his power not to shake when he was addressed.

“I take it you took proper care of my son, boy.”

“Y-yes Your Majesty,” he whispered.

Enji snorted. “Yuueians. To think, you still allow quirkless to live here,” he continued, clearly addressing All Might now. Izuku took that as his moment to escape and escape he did. He didn’t stop running until he was safe in his mother’s arms.

 

***

 

Once the party from Endeavour had taken their leave and retired for the night, Toshinori made absolutely sure he was not being followed before borderline sprinting to the room he had given Inko and Izuku. Stepping inside and locking it, Toshinori barely had time to swap out of his muscled form before Inko was in front of him, eyes burning with fury and also with tears.

“I hope you fooled Endeavour,” she managed. “I hope it was worth it.”

Feeling dread climb his throat, Toshinori approached the bed where a small lump was under the covers. Crouching down, Toshinori placed a hand on his son’s back. “Izuku?” he coaxed. “Can you talk to me?”

He was met with nothing but silence, Inko’s hands twisting together fretfully. “He hasn’t said a word since he came back. It’s...it’s been hours Toshinori! W-what did that man-”

“Papa?”

They both whipped around, Izuku’s head now poking out of the blanket. “I’m here,” Toshinori assured, taking the boy’s face in his hands. “Please, you’re worrying your mother. What’s upset you?”

Izuku bit his lip. “I’m not sad,” he said. “I’m angry.”

“Angry?” Inko repeated, taking a seat next to Izuku and drawing him to her chest. “Izuku, what do you have to be angry about?”

“That...that man,” he hissed. “He hit Shouto! An-and he didn’t even say sorry! And mama, he sent Shouto’s mama away! He made her hurt Shouto’s face!”

Inko gasped in horror, shooting a look at Toshinori when he made to pry. He had promised he wouldn’t, that Izuku would do things his way. Toshinori wilted under her gaze, instead just taking Izuku’s hand in his.

“That’s awful,” Inko said, rubbing Izuku’s arm soothingly. “Poor Shouto.”

Izuku nodded tearfully. “And that’s why I’m mad. Because Shouto’s sad.” He sent Inko a frightfully stern look. “I’m going to be Shouto’s friend. I’m going to look out for him.”

Inko smiled sadly, kissing the top of his head. “I think that’s a wonderful idea Izuku. I think, more than anything, Shouto needs a friend right now.”

Izuku seemed to agree, finally climbing out of the blankets and curling up in Inko’s lap. She nursed him until he fell asleep, stroking his hair gently. Without looking up, she addressed Toshinori. “If Izuku were to become Shouto’s friend, would he be in danger?”

Toshinori thought on that for a long moment before shaking his head. “If Izuku were to live with him, then yes, I believe so; Izuku is far too kind to adhere to the customs of Endeavour. But here? Where he may only see Shouto once every two years at best? He will be fine.”

Inko gripped Izuku tighter, bottom lip trembling when Toshinori kissed his forehead and brushed their noses together. She trusted Toshinori and it looked as though, from now on, she would have to trust him with Izuku too. One day, one day, it would all pay off.

 

***

 

Leaving his family, Toshinori headed to an area of the castle he was rather unacquainted with; the office wing. While he was not stranger to reading and had received an education all through his youth, it was also a lie to say Toshinori spent time in the castle library, or alchemy rooms, or medical rooms. There was, however, one area he was currently very interested in. A department every kingdom had but pretended they didn’t. Pushing open the door, Toshinori was immediately met with a heavy sigh.

“Hizashi, now is not the-”

The figure slumped over the table paused at seeing him, though he didn’t jump to attention like most people on Yuuei would. Instead, he merely straightened and raised a tired eyebrow. “Yes All Might?”

“Aizawa, do you always have to be like this?” he asked in despair, only to met with a deadpan look. Toshinori sighed, closing the door behind him and lowering his voice as he approached the desk. “I take it we still have spies in Endeavour?”

That piqued Aizawa’s interest, the man steepling his hands together. “We do, although obviously I can’t tell you how many.”

Toshinori nodded in understanding. “Are you able to make contact with any of them?”

Aizawa’s expression turned so black Toshinori almost felt like he should be apologising. But then he quickly schooled himself and rather firmly reminded himself that he was king. He had nothing to fear from his own men. Aizawa seemed to realise he’d lost, leaning back ever so slightly. “What do you want them to find out?”

“King Enji has come to me with only Prince Shouto. He refuses to account for the Princes Touya and Natsuo, as well as Princess Fuyumi. If possible, I should like to know if they still live.”

Aizawa got to his feet, bowing incrementally. “I’ll have my people look into it. If Enji has done away with his own children, the other kingdoms’ faith in him may be shaken.”

“I don’t care about that,” Toshinori admitted. “Only that the children are safe.”

Aizawa shook his head. “You’re too soft.” He made his way to the back door, a door which linked to the aviary via several spiral staircases. “Don’t also think you’re above speculation too. One day, I’d like to know who “Izuku” is. Palace records don’t lie.”

With that, Aizawa left the room. He also took with him every drop of warmth from Toshinori’s blood.

 

***

 

King Enji’s visit was set to last a mere eight days - enough time for the two kings to bicker over various parts of their peace agreements...and also time for each kingdom’s spies to gather enough information from the other. It was a game and they all knew it, the thought of war hanging over everyone’s head like a dark cloud.

The only ones who weren’t affected by it - or only affected to a lesser effect - were “Deku” and Shouto. Izuku was permitted to be Shouto’s guide every day from mid-morning and return him at supper. They were never to leave the palace walls but it didn’t matter to either of them, the castle new enough to both of them. They played in the gardens, snuck food from the kitchens...though admittedly very badly. Shouto read books from the library to Izuku, while Izuku made up the most wonderful stories in his head.

When the time came for the visiting party to depart, Izuku’s spirits fell. Shouto’s did too but he knew well enough to hide it. Seeing the party off, as Shouto’s horse trotted towards the gate, Izuku ran after him, waving madly.

“Bye Shouto, bye!”

He didn’t get a chance to think before his head was abruptly being pushed into a low bow. “F-forgive me, Your Majesty,” Inko stammered, her weight pushing him down. “My s-son is...a tad…”

“He’s quirkless,” King Enji spat, like that explained everything. “You would do well to teach him where he stands. Some manners wouldn’t go astray. See to it he never speaks again in my presence or he may find himself losing the ability to do so altogether.”

Izuku whimpered in fright, Inko pulling him closer. “Y-yes Your Majesty. Of course! I...I beg your pardon.”

“It is given...this once.”

Inko stammered out thanks until Enji looked away, at which point she whisked Izuku up, pressing his head into her neck. “You silly boy,” she scolded, though she was rocking him tenderly. “Hush now, he’s gone. Just be more mindful Iz-...Deku. Save such things for private moments.”

Izuku nodded against her dress, legs wrapping around her waist tighter. “Mama...di-did I get S-Shouto in trouble?”

Inko smoothed down his hair. “No. Thankfully, that boy was smart enough not to turn around.”

 

***

 

And just like that, life returned to normal. Inko and Izuku returned to the village of Shizuoka. On their way back they had made twists to Izuku’s stories and repeated them over and over until he could tell them flawlessly. After all, Izuku would need something to tell Katsuki and the other children in the village and being in All Might’s castle didn’t match the narrative they’d given upon their departure. It would also be a disastrous fact to reveal.

Brushing down their horse and dropping their meagre belongings inside, Inko didn’t even have time to sit down before there was a hammering on the door.

“Oi Deku! Get your useless arse out here!”

Izuku practically bowled her over in his attempt to reach the door, swinging it open and grinning widely. “Kacchan! Yo-you’ll never believe what I-...Oh, hello auntie! Bye Mama!”

Izuku didn’t even ask for permission; he simply shot out the door after Katsuki, the sounds of explosions bouncing around the town square. Inko, thanks to Izuku’s greeting, knew Mitsuki was there, inviting the woman in with a wave. “I’m sorry, we don’t have anything prepared yet.”

“Typical,” Mitsuki huffed, handing over a honey cake. “Let’s split that and tell me how your visit up north went.”

Inko smiled, at least making some tea before finding a chair by the hearth, Mitsuki in the other. “I’m afraid I don’t have much to say,” she admitted, passing a cup and saucer over. “It was simply a visit to Shino’s village. He also...there was a shrine made there for people lost in the war against Endeavour. I...Hisashi’s name was there so we left flowers.”

It wasn’t, but the story had to sell.

“Aha,” Mitsuki said, sounding a tad interested but mostly bored. “You like that Shino guy or something?”

“M-Mitsuki!” Inko stammered. “Don’t say such things!”

“What?” she crowed, grinning wolfishly. “It’s not like you went the entire length of the kingdom or anything to see him.”

Inko stared into her cup moodily. “He did the same. It was simply...polite.”

“Polite,” Mitsuki repeated, rolling her eyes. “I always forget you grew up in the capital and then you spew shit like that. We just tell ‘em tough luck. I wouldn’t drag Katsuki across the kingdom just outta some obligation.”

She had a point, Inko sighing. “I know. But...I feel the trip did Deku good anyway. He’s been...out of spirits lately.”

“Yeah, ‘cause he doesn’t have a quirk,” came the blunt reply. “Look Inko, he’ll either get one or he won’t and either way he’s gotta man up about it. Sulking about it won’t help.”

“Katsuki throwing the matter in his face won’t help him either.”

The words were out before Inko realised, immediately slapping a hand over her mouth in horror while Mitsuki’s expression turned from surprised to proud. “Well, well, well, you do have spirit in there! I would never have guessed. Guess Deku’s your button, huh?” She then waved a hand. “And alright, I’ll talk with the brat again.”

They drank their tea in silence for awhile before Inko hesitantly cleared her throat. “There is...another matter that came up.”

Mitsuki quirked an eyebrow. “Oh really? And what’s that?”

“Well, word is that the palace is looking for a tutor. S-someone to teach the noble’s children.” Again, a lie, but Mitsuki didn’t need to know. “I thought...since I have some knowledge of reading and writing…”

“And you heard about this while away?” Mitsuki asked, not even waiting for an answer. “Why is it that when you lose someone, you are...rewarded by the gods. And I…”

“Mitsuki,” Inko whispered, slipping closer and placing a hand on her knee. Mitsuki ignored her but her hands were shaking and Inko knew why. In the five years since she’d been here, Mitsuki had lost two children, one within hours of its birth and one just before. But she had been expecting a third before Inko left and-... “You are not with child anymore?”

Mitsuki batted her hand away. “And what about it? Guess I’ll have to make do with Katsuki. According to him I’m not allowed to have anymore, makes me too sad.”

Inko hummed in disapproval. “He’s just a young boy!”

“Inko, you think I haven’t heard this from Masaru?” She shook her head. “Look, let me be jealous for a minute and let me be petty. I’m still happy for you, you hear?” Mitsuki then cackled, though it was more sad than mean. “Besides, you, in the palace? You’d just...stammer and be scared all the time.”

“I at least thought it was worth a short,” Inko murmured, hands tightening on her mug as she returned to her chair. “And...And even if not, I’m planning to start tutoring...Deku. He wants to learn. And...if Katsuki were interested…?”

Mitsuki made a noise of surprise. “Well, I mean...the little shit has been talking about being a knight for All Might since even before he got his quirk. They’re supposed to read and write or something, aren’t they? Or it gets ‘em in quicker or some shit? Katsuki would be into that.”

“I’m not sure,” Inko admitted honestly. “But I’d be happy to teach him. A-and anyone in the village who wanted to learn.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Mitsuki said, helping her with the dishes before seeing herself out. “Practice enough and you might wow those capital losers.”

Inko sent her off with a smile, deciding against unpacking long enough to look at her parchment and ink supplies. She would need more very soon, if she were to teach the children, but it would make do for now. Because Izuku couldn’t not study. He was a prince; it was time Inko acknowledged that and stopped pretending he was simply a country boy.

 

***

 

A month had passed before Toshinori found himself back in that small nook of a room. Aizawa’s eyes flicked up, pausing when they caught sight of him. Carefully folding up whatever he was reading, Aizawa waved him into the room. Toshinori took the chair opposite, though his air was far less friendly than last time.

“So, what have you learned of the Todoroki line?”

“There is a smaller castle to the north-east that King Enji frequents during hunting season. His family, bar Prince Touya and Prince Shouto, are currently living there. Prince Shouto remains in the capital and Prince Touya, by all accounts, is missing.”

“Missing?” Toshinori repeated, frowning. “How can a prince simply up and vanish?”

“You tell me,” Aizawa said dryly before brushing the issue aside - not that Toshinori would let him for long. “This is pure hearsay but Prince Touya got into a fight with his father that turned...violent. It didn’t end well and the prince has not been seen since. At the very least, he was last seen alive. If he’s died from his wounds since then or is simply living under a false name, no one is the wiser. He may have even left Endeavour. My spies can’t find him.”

“I see,” Toshinori said, resting his chin on his hands. “And while I thank you for this information, you also know why I’m displeased.”

Aizawa didn’t humour him by pretending to look scared. “I read a book situated inside this castle. That it contained information you wanted to remain hidden is no fault of mine. So...who is Izuku?”

Toshinori choked. “He-...That is…”

“Pretend I am King Enji and answer me again: who is Izuku? Is he your son?”

Toshinori jerked in surprise, slamming a hand onto the table. “O-of course not! He is-”

“All Might...do you really think that would fool a child, let alone King Enji?”

As much as Toshinori wanted to be mad, he couldn’t be, deflating. “No. You are right Aizawa. Unfortunately, I don’t know what else to do. Lying has never been a strong suit of mine.”

Aizawa eyed him up for a long moment. “Then this is what I propose, at times at which you are alone but also unsuspecting, I will ask you about Izuku. The more used to hearing his name you get, the less it will bother you. And, the easier you’ll be able to lie.” Aizawa returned his attention to the scroll he’d been reading when Toshinori walked in, clearly dismissing him. “I’ll have Yamada do the same, but he will only be privy to the name, not the connection. He won’t make it either, he isn’t quite all there as it were.”

Toshinori barked out a laugh. “Now Aizawa, that is harsh!”

Aizawa’s lips quirked into the smallest smile. “Harsh, but true. And All Might!” he called as he went to leave. “I would love Izuku to meet Hitoshi one day.”

Toshinori frowned. “Who is Hitoshi?”

Aizawa didn’t even blink, immersed in his reading. “Who?”

Closing the door, Toshinori huffed. Spies and their secrets!

 

***

 

Some months later the letter came, Yami swooping in the back window of Inko’s house and waiting patiently while she removed the letter from his leg.



Dearest Midoriyas

Crimson Riot and his son are expected some three weeks hence. The youngest is required at once.

May your journey be swift.

Y.T.



Placing the letter down, Inko scuttled out to where Izuku was brushing down their mare. Seeing her approaching, Izuku dropped his brush and burrowed into her stomach. Inko crouched down in front of him, resting her forehead against his. “Are you ready to see Papa again?”

Izuku’s face split into a grin, bopping their noses together before hugging her tightly. “Yes!”

“Then go, pack your things. We leave at dawn.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Hearing the door to his chambers open, Toshinori wasn’t able to stop a grin appearing on his face when he spotted a mop of green him sprinting towards him. Spreading his arms wide, Toshinori scooped Izuku up, squeezing him with a hearty laugh.

“Hello my boy. How was your trip?”

Izuku barely acknowledged him, shimmying down and knocking on the door that led to Tsukauchi’s room.

“Izuku!” Inko hissed, sending Toshinori an exasperated look as she chased after her son.

“Don’t worry, I have him,” Tsukauchi said, opening the door and ruffling Izuku’s hair. “Still Izuku, you shouldn’t do that. What if I hadn’t been alone?”

Izuku sobered at that, apologising and scurrying back to Inko’s side. Toshinori smiled at them both, wrapping his arm around Inko’s shoulders and kissing her temple. “I take it your journey was uneventful?”

Inko nodded, going up on tiptoe to kiss his jaw before taking Izuku’s hand. “I’m sorry Toshinori but the hour is already late. I wasn’t going to announce our arrival until morning but Izuku was insistent.”

Toshinori chuckled, crouching down and pulling Izuku into his arms briefly. “I assure you my boy, I wasn’t going anywhere. Tomorrow I will make time to play. Now quickly, to bed with you. It’s nearly the midnight hour.”

Izuku grumbled good-naturedly but let Inko sneak him out of the room, the pair ducking through shadows as they made their way to the chambers Toshinori had permanently reserved for them. To his left, Toshinori could see Tsukauchi shaking his head with a smile. “What?” he asked.

Tsukauchi merely shrugged. “Just observing, sire. I think...perhaps it’s good Izuku is not raised here. You surely would have spoilt him rotten.”

Toshinori laughed, staring at the door in a mixture of love and sadness. “Yes Tsukauchi, I think you’re right.”

 

***

 

The difference between the Flame King and Crimson Riot was apparent immediately. There was no pomp and circumstance, no great entourage of guards, there wasn’t even a request to be met in the Great Hall. No, Kirishima Ishiyama requested a smaller room with a table at which they could talk. He also asked for a room with windows which, while odd, wasn’t hard to facilitate.

Unfurling a large map of their lands, Toshinori looked up when the heavy oak doors opened. King Ishiyama all but thundered into the room from his size and presence alone. The main difference between him and King Enji though was that he was smiling.

“All Might!” he greeted jovially, bowing dismissively before pulling him into a hug.

Toshinori returned in kind, laughing. “It has been too long my friend. How goes Riot?”

“Ah, it goes,” Ishiyama said with a wave of his hand. “But before we get into anything too serious, allow me to introduce this one. Eijirou!”

There was some giggling from under the table before a boy popped out, freezing slightly at the sight of All Might before zipping behind his father. A single eye peeked out, Toshinori crouching down and smiling.

“Eijirou, is it?”

“Yes All Might sir!” Eijirou replied, waving quickly before making for the window, leaning out and commentating on everything he could see.

“Too lively,” Ishiyama said in a tone that was both fond and exasperated. “He keeps me on my toes if nothing else. He should be quiet enough for our meeting; the view can entertain him well enough.”

Ah, that explained that. Toshinori’s eyes then flicked to Izuku who...was doing a very bad job of hiding his excitement. Toshinori waved him over with a hand, the movement catching Ishiyama’s attention. “If you wish, Deku here may entertain Eijirou. I...I realise I have no heir of my own to present hence I have prepared one of the servant’s children to be the companion of royal visitors.”

Ishiyama stared at him before bellowing out a laugh, beckoning for Izuku to come closer. “You Yuueians are too soft! It’s not your fault we all sired children so close in age.” He then hefted Izuku onto his lap, the boy squeaking. “Deku, was it?”

Izuku nodded silently, head bowed low. “Y-yes Your Majesty.”

He then flinched when Crimson Riot reached out, the other king tutting before teasingly pinching Izuku’s cheek. “Tell me All Might, how do you make them soft in looks as well? This one looks as though you spun him from a cloud! And he’s, what? A servant’s son? Your royal bloodlines must be very pleasing to the eye then.”

Toshinori didn’t know what to say to that. Luckily, he didn’t have to because Izuku chose that moment to giggle. Ishiyama dug his fingers into Izuku’s side in response, the boy squealing and subsequently capturing Eijirou’s attention. The Riotian prince whipped around so fast Toshinori was surprised he didn’t injure himself. The boy skidded to Izuku’s side, grinning at him with sharp, sharp teeth. “I’m Prince Eijirou! You?”

Izuku slipped to the ground meekly, fast turning shy. “D-Deku, s-sire.”

“Deku, got it!” Eijirou said enthusiastically. “Can I play with him Dad?”

Ishiyama nodded, though his gaze flicked to All Might. “Is there an ante-chamber to this room they could play in? I have no problems with this Deku you offered but Eijirou...he is a force to be reckoned with and I prefer him within reach, at least until he truly masters his quirk.”

“That isn’t a problem at all,” Toshinori said, gesturing to a room to his right. “Deku?”

Izuku bowed swiftly, leading Eijirou to the specified ante-chamber. That handled, Toshinori and Ishiyama turned their attention to the map in front of them. Re-establishing trade routes was never fun but then, whoever said being a king was fun?

 

***

 

Pushing the door shut, Izuku had to bite down a smile at how boisterous Eijirou was. He was so different to Shouto; Shouto, for one, would never be poking his nose into every corner of the room just because. He was stiffer and more rigid while Eijirou seemed to be nothing but a ball of energy and fun. Izuku liked him already.

Clearly deciding nothing in the room interested him, Eijirou turned, hands on his hips. “Hey, I saw this weird animal on the way in. Do you know what it is?”

“Uh...if you explain it I might?” Izuku offered.

Eijirou grinned, clambering onto the table and waving Izuku over. Izuku gaped at him, latching onto his hand and giving at a tug.

“You shouldn’t sit on the table! I-...I mean, s-sire. It’s...it’s not allowed.”

Eijirou just lifted him up, Izuku gasping a little in surprise. “Dad says if it doesn’t hurt anyone, then it’s okay and this!” He pointed at the table, “Isn’t hurting anyone! You can say it was my idea, if you want. I’ll even tell Dad you said not to!”

Izuku wavered before settling in, legs crossing into a basket. If he said no, he’d probably be in trouble for not obeying a prince, right? Seeing that the battle was won, Eijirou launched into a description of the creature he’d seen. It was, in fact, a chipmunk but apparently they didn’t have those in Riot. No, they had creatures such as dragons and golems - creatures Izuku didn’t know were even real. He’d had to hastily refuse when Eijirou offered to bring him one, despite how he really did want to see one.

From there their conversation turned more into the differences between their countries - the colours of their skin, the times they ate their meals, what they ate for said meals. Things like what games were popular amongst the children, what the scenery was like, all the different animals that lived in their kingdoms.

“I’ll show you something else we do!” Kirishima said proudly, puffing his chest out before knocking his fists together. “That’s how we greet people in Riot!” He then held out one fist, gesturing for Izuku to do the same. Izuku did, Kirishima bumping their fists together. “And that’s how we say hello to our friends! So I guess that makes you my friend Deku!”

Izuku blushed, hiding his face in his hands. Eijirou laughed, poking at his shoulder lightly. “Sorry if I upset you.”

“Y-you didn’t!” Izuku stammered. “I just-...I’m, uh, still a bit new at...m-making friends.”

“Oh,” Eijirou said, face falling slightly. “That’s...that’s a little sad.” He then brightened. “But I can be your friend! Is there a way to be friends in Yuuei?”

The words were a bit jumbled but Izuku nodded, getting the meaning. He shuffled a little closer until their knees were touching, extending a hand before hesitating. “Is it okay if I touch you?”

“Of course!”

Emboldened by the smile opposite him, Izuku gently gripped the back of Eijirou’s head, guiding it closer until their foreheads were touching, eyes sinking shut. “This is how we greet those we’re familiar with.” He then pressed their noses together. “And this...this means we’re f-friends.”

Eijirou hummed before, “It’s kind of silly to just look at you.”

Izuku opened his eyes and squawked at seeing Eijirou so close. “You’re supposed to close your eyes!” he screeched, trying to back away only for Eijirou to keep them connected, his hand mimicking where Izuku’s had been. “Eijirou…

The prince giggled. “No! We have to both close our eyes and do it right.” Izuku did and assumed Eijirou did. A beat passed. “How long do we do this for?”

Izuku smothered a laugh. “I don’t know. U-until you’re finished?”

Eijirou was smiling, he could tell. “Then I’m never going to let you go.”

“What? No!” Izuku squealed, trying to back away. Eijirou made another grab for him, Izuku managing to wiggle free. Eijirou cackled madly, Izuku giggling quietly before the prince came for him again. Of course, that was when Eijirou pushed him and pushed him that much harder than he was expecting. There was a beat and then Izuku was falling, landing on the floor with a sickening crack. Pain exploded across his skull.

“Dad!”

 

***

 

The one thing Toshinori never wanted to hear, not while Izuku was in his care, was a scream like the one he just heard. The Crimson Riot was already out of his chair, running across the room with Toshinori on his heels. Entering the room, Toshinori was in the very, very least a tad relieved to find Eijirou unharmed, though in tears. His gaze then turned to Izuku and his stomach dropped. The boy was clutching his head, sobbing as blood poured down his hands.

“Shit,” Toshinori muttered, flying to Izuku’s side and placing a hand on his back. “M-...Boy, are you alright?”

Izuku nodded - such a blatant lie - and turned big eyes to Ishiyama. “I-I’m so-sorry,” he hiccoughed. “I didn’t-...I sh-should have said to...to hop down.”

Ishiyama turned to Eijirou, who sunk down. “We...we were sitting on the table and I...I pushed him too hard. B-But!” he cried defensively. “You said I could do things if they didn’t...hurt any-...oh.”

Ishiyama sent his son a pointed look before tilting Izuku’s head up, wincing. “I told you All Might, my boy is stronger than he looks. And you,” he said to Izuku, “Don’t apologise. Children have accidents. If anyone should be apologising, it is Eijirou.”

Eijirou seemed to agree, looking incredibly guilty and starting to sniffle into his father’s coat. Toshinori barely spared him a look though, softly shushing Izuku and helping him to his feet. “Can you make it to Recovery Girl?” he murmured. “If not, I can summon your mother.”

“I can do it,” Izuku mumbled. “Don’t worry Mama.”

Letting go and being assured Izuku could walk on his own, Toshinori prepared to dismiss him when Eijirou tugged on his hand. “May...May I walk Deku to the healer?”

Toshinori smiled at him, clasping his shoulder warmly. “Of course! Deku would be honoured to have your company young Eijirou!”

“If he is fit for duty, bring him straight back,” Ishiyama ordered. “If not, wait until his guardian arrives and then see to it you are shown back here.”

“Okay!” Eijirou said determinedly, taking Izuku’s upper arm and marching him towards the door. “Deku, you tell me where to go and I’ll steer you there. And make sure you point out any secret tunnels along the way, promise?”

“I promise,” Izuku assured as they disappeared from view. Toshinori felt his knees tremble traitorously. It turned out, he wasn’t prepared to be a parent. Not at all. His heart wasn’t made to handle this amount of stress.

 

***

 

Within the hour Izuku was back, though under instructions to take it easy. Under the guise of enjoying the weather, Toshinori suggested they all dine outside. It gave Eijirou and Izuku the chance to run and use up all their energy, while their fathers simply basked in the sunlight as servants waited on them. The boys ran and jumped and skipped and hopped, play only stopping momentarily when Izuku stumbled...and deposited himself into a fountain. Toshinori sent his eyes skyward while Ishiyama laughed uproariously.

“If he were a knight of mine I’d have him on balance practice constantly,” Ishiyama said in amusement. “Two accidents in one day.”

“I apologise,” Toshinori said hurriedly. “I wasn’t aware the boy was so clumsy.”

“They are children,” Ishiyama repeated, finishing his wine and calling for another. “Hurting themselves is what they do best.”

It seemed as though Eijirou had helped Izuku out of the fountain, patting his back kindly before sticking his tongue out and racing towards his father. Izuku pouted and folded his arms, Toshinori set to send him a warning look when,

“D-Deku! What are you...You’ll catch a chill looking like that!” Inko bustled onto the scene, a laundry hamper in her hands and a harried look on her face. “Come and change before-”

Izuku whispered something Toshinori couldn’t hear, Inko stiffening. She then turned towards them and bowed deeply, cheeks red. “My apologies Your Highnesses. I did not realise Deku was s-still in your service.”

“Send him off,” the visiting king said offhandedly, hefting Eijirou into his lap and allowing him choice pick of his meal. Toshinori went to do so, only for a small hand to clench in his sleeve. Eijirou met his gaze confidently, though his bottom lip wobbled just a bit.

“Can Deku sleep in my chambers tonight? I’d like the company!”

Toshinori paused. “I...Well, I don’t see-”

“All Might, I admire your style of ruling,” Ishiyama cut in plainly. “But ask the child’s mother. King or not, even I don’t dare get between a woman and her child.”

Remembering Inko’s vindictiveness when Toshinori had suggested he bring Izuku to the capital...yes, that made sense. As such, he summoned Inko over, Izuku trotting along at her side, as sopping wet as he was. “Prince Eijirou would like Deku’s company for the night. Would that be agreeable to you?”

Inko looked very surprised though she quickly bowed her head. “O-of course. Deku is...He is here to serve. And I’m sure he will provide good company.”

Izuku was already bouncing on his toes in glee, hiding behind Inko when King Ishiyama grinned at him. “Very well! Have the boy escorted to my son’s chambers after supper. Until then he is dismissed. See to it he eats and bathes before his presence is needed.”

“Thank you Your Highness,” Inko said, taking her leave and, with her, Izuku. Eijirou made a tiny, pained sound when his “friend” was out of sight. Toshinori had to push down a smile. Izuku was making friends; good.

 

***

 

Snuggling down into the blankets on his mattress, Izuku was amazed by how much more comfortable this bed was compared to his own back in Shizuoka. Yes, he and his mother had a nice bed in the palace but they always had to go home. And even then, the one provided for Eijirou seemed softer still. Or maybe it was the blankets, brought from Riot and made from a material they didn’t have in Yuuei. Still, as much as he burrowed into them, it wasn’t the same as curling up in his mother’s arms. Her warm presence wasn’t in the bed and Izuku felt very small and alone suddenly.

“Deku?”

Izuku yelped, pulling the blankets over his head. “S-sorry Eijirou! I-...I’m sure you’re t-trying to sleep.”

The blanket on his head was pulled away, Eijirou peering down at him curiously. “Well yeah, it’s night time. But you keep wriggling around. What’s wrong?”

Izuku felt his cheeks heat up, trying to look away only to have Eijirou poke him and mumble something about being a prince so he had to tell him. Izuku cheekily licked his hand for that, Eijirou squealing before giggling. He then rolled off his bed and onto Izuku’s, teasing his hair in a way that was probably meant to be soothing but was actually a little bit too rough.

“I…” Izuku swallowed thickly. “I m-miss Mama. I...I have never slept apart from her.”

“Oh.” Eijirou pulled him into a hug. “I didn’t know that. Do you want to see if we can find her? I bet she misses you too!”

Izuku chewed on his bottom lip before shaking his head. “No, I...I want to stay with Eijirou. Maybe...Maybe I just n-need to be brave.”

“Yeah, we can be brave!” Eijirou agreed, fist punching the air. He then nestled back close to Izuku, twisting so they were basically nose to nose. “You know, Deku, I...I’m scared too.” His voice was barely a whisper. “I...My Dad’s really strong and clever. And I...I’m not. I know I’m supposed to listen whenever Dad has meetings but I find them so boring! I’m not smart enough to get it anyway.”

Izuku frowned, cupping Eijirou’s cheek like his mother did when he was upset. “I think you’re plenty smart enough Eijirou. And as for you and Crimson Riot...y-you, you seem the same to me. So you have to be everything he is! Because you’re the same!”

Eijirou stared at him for a moment before crushing him in his arms. “You’re the best friend ever Deku!”

Deku smiled, hugging Eijirou back. “I’m very lucky to be your friend Eijirou.”

Minutes later they were asleep, bundled up in each other’s arms. Across the palace, another couple were doing the same for the first time in over five years.

 

***

 

Arriving back in Shizuoka one week later, it was easy for Izuku to forget that the palace even existed, that he was related to All Might, that he had met two of the five ruling heirs...Well, three actually because he had most certainly met himself. But in Shizuoka, he was Deku; useless, quirkless Deku. Things returned to normal so fast it was like they had never left. It was back to cleaning their horse’s stall, scrubbing the floors, collecting missed pieces of wheat from behind the harvesters, bartering for this and that.

It also meant returning to Katsuki. Katsuki wasn’t that bad, Izuku supposed, he was just...loud and brash. And not in the nice way that Eijirou was. He was always forever grumpy and mean. Still, he was amazing in his own way, had that allure about him that just drew Izuku in.

“Hey Deku!” came the call that day as Katsuki caught sight of him. “Come explore with us!”

Izuku glanced to the friends gathered behind Katsuki and then his mother. “No, thank you Kacchan.”

“Huh?!” Katsuki yelled, stomping over and glowering at him. “You think you’re big shit ‘cause you went to the capital one time?”

“Deku,” Inko murmured, Izuku’s heart falling. “Go play with Katsuki please. It’s been so long since you’ve seen him.”

Izuku bit back a sigh before nodding, waving goodbye and taking off. He still wasn’t strong enough or fast enough to keep up with their quirks but, for once, Katsuki wasn’t actively trying to hurt him. It made him wonder if maybe Katsuki had missed him while he’d been away. When the time came for supper and everyone started to split up, Izuku was wrenched back by Katsuki yanking on his collar. Izuku coughed as he regained his footing, scowling at Katsuki only to find he was looking the other way.

“K-Kacchan?”

“Is…” Katsuki’s voice was far more quiet than normal. “In that shitty...in All Might’s palace, were there knights with a quirk like mine?”

Izuku reached out, taking Katsuki’s hand only to be slapped away. His shoulders dropped. “No one has a quirk like Kacchan.”

Katsuki peered at him with narrowed eyes. He then shoved his hands in his pockets. “Whatever Deku.”

 

***

 

From there on, their - being Izuku and Katsuki’s - lives became a mass of schooling and village chores. Inko would teach the children in the morning, starting with basic reading and writing and mathematics. They had quills and ink and parchment to practise with and a slate to use while they were still very new to a topic. Katsuki had been very proud to walk in on the first day and write his name in its traditional form flawlessly. Izuku had fumbled his own in the simplified font, Katsuki laughing at him and teasing him for not having a traditional name. He did, and Izuku had already been taught it, but for secrecy’s sake, he never showed it. Izuku liked it though, his real name. It looked beautiful on paper; simple but dignified.

In the afternoon, if the other children were practising their quirks rather than playing, Izuku would stay behind in his house. Tsukauchi was making a habit of sending them scrolls with Yuuei’s history or laws on them. Sometimes he even included clauses from their peace treaties with other kingdoms. Izuku would read all these, memorise them as best he could, and then send the scrolls back.

And if there were some things Katsuki didn’t know, that was fine. In fact, it was necessary.

 

***

 

Like they did every year, the seasons began to change. The time for war was over and autumn was spent hastily harvesting crops. Then winter set in and everyone stayed tucked away in their homes. Spring brought the warmth and All Might’s usual patrol of the kingdom - although he never visited Shizuoka, too small and close to Endeavour to be worth the effort. ‘The closer to danger, the farther from harm’ was truly the concept they had applied when hiding Izuku.

And then the visits from the other kingdoms just...stopped. There was a false sense of peace and with no new rumours, there was no need to “visit” - or spy - on each other. So it was that nearly a good year and a half had passed before Toshinori had need of Izuku again. Or rather, he didn’t, but someone else did. The Kings’ Summit was coming up and it was, truthfully, the last place Toshinori would ever have taken Izuku. By choice. Unfortunately, the choice was not there due to the letter he had received.



For All Might,

As our preparations for the Kings’ Summit in Riot have nearly been completed I am writing to ask a favour on behalf on my son, Prince Eijirou. He has requested the servant’s son Deku be in your party. He is keen to show the other kingdoms his Yuueian friend.

See to it you bring him, as well as his mother, in place of a gift. My son’s happiness is gift enough.

Regards, Crimson Riot



It took all of Toshinori’s power to not scrunch the paper in his hand. “His Yuueian friend”, like Izuku was merely some pet. An exotic animal to be paraded and shown about. Except, that’s exactly what he was meant to be. So below everyone that they wouldn’t look at him twice.

Still, that didn’t mean Toshinori was looking forward to passing this message on to Inko. Two weeks from home, three at most, was an easy ask. A near two months, perhaps three? That was almost an entire season. Plus she had a house to keep and no doubt crops of her own to look after. And Izuku...Izuku would be away from his friends so long. Away from them and thrust into the height of danger. But to do otherwise would insult Crimson Riot’s honour because which ruler could not spare a boy? A common one at that?

Sighing heavily, Toshinori wrote a note to Inko. He sent the message away with Yami before summoning Tsukauchi to his chambers. His manservant read it over the original letter with a grim smile. “I will begin preparations immediately.”

 

***

 

“A whole season?” Mitsuki asked from the doorway, watching as Inko packed and re-packed things.

“I know, I know,” she replied, comparing two handkerchiefs before stowing both in her bag. “I know they requested a tutor but I did not imagine it to be so full on from the start. And, oh, to have to bring Deku.”

“I’ve told you, you can leave him with me.”

Inko sent her friend a long-suffering look. “And how long before Iz-...Deku and Katsuki burn your house down? They’re enemies as much as they are friends.”

Mitsuki laughed, taking the cloak from Inko’s hands and placing it back. “It’s too cold to take one so thin. Get something thicker!” Inko did so, deliberating before laying it out so she could wear it on the way in. “And yeah, Katsuki’s weird when it comes to your kid. I mean, sure the brat’s quirkless but a quirk doesn’t make you a man as much as Katsuki thinks it does.”

“Finally!” Inko exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. “Now tell that to Deku next time you see him. He still harps on about that!” Which was only more ridiculous to Inko because Izuku knew that he would get a quirk, just not yet.

Luckily, Izuku took that moment to return home, Katsuki on his heels. He had food for the journey to the capital and a new cloak since he had outgrown his last one, as freshly turned seven. He came almost to her shoulder now and was missing a good number of teeth. His bright eyes and engaging smile remained though. Unsurprisingly, Izuku yelped when Mitsuki smacked him up the back of the head.

“You!” she said, poking his forehead. “Having a quirk doesn’t make you a man, got it? And you,” Mitsuki continued, rounding on Katsuki. “Get your head out of your arse about yours!”

“Hah?!” Katsuki yelled, stamping a foot and setting off explosions in his palms.

Izuku rolled his eyes, tallying off what Inko had packed before ducking upstairs to get the last few things they would need. There wasn’t much, just some clothes for sleeping in and a neckerchief and scarf for him and his mother respectively.

“Oi Auntie,” Katsuki drawled, finally escaping his mother and jumping onto the dining table, legs swinging idly. “Who’s gonna teach me shit if you’re not here? Like I’m gonna like Deku get ahead of me!”

Inko patted his cheek with a smile that Izuku knew was fake. “Hop down dear and I’ll find the lessons I left for you.”

Katsuki grumbled but did as asked, arms folded crossly. Izuku, daring since he was about to leave, pinched his cheek. “Turn that frown upside down Kacchan.”

A blink.

And then,

“I’ll turn you fucking upside down you little shit! Deku, get back here you-”

Izuku laughed, sprinting off and ducking behind Mitsuki. She wasted no time in bopping Katsuki on the head, though Izuku whined when he did the same to him. “Look kid, I’ll protect you but don’t go starting a fight you can’t win.”

Izuku blinked up at her. “...I see.”

“Deku!” Inko called, seeing him about to dissolve into a stream of mutterings. “Come give Katsuki his lessons while I prepare the horse.”

Izuku did as asked, locking all the windows and reminding Masaru once more of what needed to be done in their absence before joining his mother. With a - grudging - boost from Kacchan, Izuku slipped onto the saddle behind Inko. He frowned at the lack of room; they would need to buy a second horse soon. But he didn’t have time to worry about that, not when there were goodbyes to say and paths to travel. He could worry about that later. After the Kings’ Summit, maybe.

 

***

 

The journey to Riot’s capital was long and arduous. The weather went from misty mornings and clear, crisp days to cyclonic rains that battered Yuuei’s caravans. At the border they had picked up Riotian escorts, who guided them through the kingdom. Despite the length of the journey - near two weeks - Izuku saw very little of his father. With such a small party, being by the king’s side did not go unnoticed. Instead Izuku studied with his mother and viewed the scenery, eagerly waiting for his first glimpse of a dragon.

Their arrival was met with little fanfare, All Might and Crimson Riot exchanging words while everyone else was led to the wing of Riot’s castle that would be theirs for the duration of their stay.

“Aren’t we supposed to go into the Great Hall and greet everyone?” Izuku asked, sitting atop a trunk as Tsukauchi and Inko worked together to unpack Toshinori’s belongings.

“There will be time for that when everyone arrives,” Tsukauchi informed him.

“Izuku, come help,” Inko requested.

He simply grinned at her. “Tsukauchi said I’m not allowed.”

“I did,” the manservant admitted sheepishly. “Although I never instructed you to look so smug. If you’re going to be so precocious, open the windows to air the room out please.”

“Precocious,” Izuku repeated even as he made his way over to the windows. “That’s a new word. What does it mean?”

Tsukauchi sighed in jest. “It means little boys, Izukus in particular, who see others working and tease because they don’t have to.”

Izuku went pink, quickly unlatching the windows before quietly slipping to Inko’s side, asking if he could help in some way. Inko looked to Tsukauchi, who thought for a moment before sending Izuku to scout out their wing; whose rooms were where, where the staircases were, what was the quickest way to the ground level. Izuku did so efficiently, dashing back to the room when done and throwing himself onto the floor with ink and parchment. His diagram was done by the time All Might returned, quickly getting to his feet. Toshinori just smiled, coming to kneel in front of him and connecting their foreheads.

“Izuku, my boy, when did you get so tall?”

Izuku smiled, rubbing their noses together. “Perhaps when you weren’t looking.”

Toshinori made an odd face there before pulling away, repeating the gesture with Inko and then kissing her sweetly. “Are you ready to make some new friends Izuku?”

“I hope to,” Izuku said, climbing onto Toshinori’s bed and humming softly. “I’d like to be all their friends but...well, I mean, not everyone is n-nice.”

“That’s a very wise choice,” Toshinori said, coming to sit next to him. “Part of being a king is being able to read people and their intents. That being said, sometimes you have to be nice even if you don’t want to, for the sake of your people.”

“Like King Enji.” Everyone jumped, Izuku frowning at them. “I’m not a fool. I know he is no one’s favourite and everyone tries to stay on his good side simply because he is strong.” It was kind of like being friends with Katsuki, in a way. “There’s no point starting a fight you know you can’t win.”

Inko shook her head in wonder, coming forward to ruffle his hair. “Now I know Mitsuki didn’t mean it like that but you’ve certainly made it into good advice.”

“Indeed, perhaps I could learn a thing or two from you,” Toshinori agreed. He then slapped his hands together. “Now, a servant you may be, and Inko too, but this is a Kings’ Summit. It will not do to have you in commoner’s clothing.” He gestured to the trunk Izuku had been sitting on. “The tailors have prepared you clothes to wear while you are here.”

Izuku was bounding over even as Inko was saying it wasn’t necessary. Apparently it was and that was good because Izuku was intrigued. Waiting for Tsukauchi to unlock the trunk and riffle through it, Izuku gasped when an outfit was handed to him. The fabric was much better quality than anything he had had before and he hastily looked for a screen to change behind. Some minutes later he was back, holding his arms out to show Inko. Her smile said it all, beckoning him over.

“You look so handsome,” she whispered, smoothing down the front of his waistcoat; beautiful velvet in a colour that matched his hair perfectly. Izuku toyed with the white sleeves of his shirt as Inko started to ran a brush through his hair. “Now if only your hair would cooperate.”

“It-...ow!...It does what it likes,” Izuku whined, fumbling with his shirt cuffs in between his winces.

Eventually Inko was satisfied, taming his hair into a semi-presentable state. As she took her leave to change her own outfit, Toshinori gave him a sympathetic smile, indicating his own hair. Izuku felt a little better at that, impatiently rocking on his heels until his mother returned. She looked every bit as beautiful as she should, Izuku telling her as much just before a series of bells started to ring, followed by a loud roar.

“Dragon!” Izuku cried gleefully, taking one step towards the window before being pulled back. He made a pained noise but Toshinori tapped his nose in reprimand.

“It doesn’t do for a king to be late Izuku. Besides,” he added under his breath as they approached the door. “Should you ask Eijirou nicely, I’m sure he will be willing to show you.”

Izuku nodded swiftly at that, dropping All Might’s hand and stepping to Inko’s side instead. She drew him closer, squeezing his shoulder gently before finding their place amongst the Yuuei ranks. People dressed in varying styles and colours joined them the closer they got to the Great Hall and Izuku felt he would get lost in the crowd if he wasn’t holding his mother’s hand. She clearly had no intention of letting go either, to which he was grateful.

“Remember,” Inko said as they made ready to enter. “Draw as little attention to yourself as possible. You are here as Prince Eijirou’s particular friend, not to serve any other royalty. And especially don’t address Prince Shouto. His father already has a poor opinion of you.”

Izuku mumbled a soft “yes Mama” as they and the other Yuueians bar All Might took their place against one of the hall’s imposing walls. Izuku barely had time to take in the breathtaking pillars made of red marble and the dragon sculpture made of rubies that wrapped around the throne before,

“Hey, there he is! Deku!”

Step one: failed.

 

***



Chapter Text

 

***

 

Hey, there he is! Deku!

Toshinori had to bite down the urge to whirl around, ignoring Prince Eijirou as he started pushing his way through the crowd. He had a grip on both Prince Tenya’s and Princess Ochako’s wrists, dragging them along with him. Prince Shouto’s gaze flicked over lazily but that was all. Still, Toshinori could see the conflict in his eyes, as hidden as it was from his father.

“Deku?” King Kaito, of Ingenium, asked. “Who is he?”

Crimson Riot just laughed. “He’s simply a Yuueian servant Eijirou met on his last visit. He wanted to show him off.”

“Like a pet,” Enji crowed in delight, Toshinori pointedly ignoring the look sent his way. “I hope his mother’s managed to beat some manners into him.”

Toshinori pretended not to hear, watching Izuku creep further and further behind Inko. He was occasionally speaking but more than anything, he looked overwhelmed.

“How did Eijirou meet him?” Kaito asked.

“Ah, that’s on me,” Toshinori admitted. “He is provided to entertain the nobles’ and royals’ children. I am not so fortunate to have an heir yet.”

“There is no rush,” Himawari, Queen of Uravity, said, gently laying a hand on Toshinori’s arm. “I’m sure, one day, you will find someone right for you.”

Enji snorted. “That’s fanciful thinking. Do not pretend we all do not marry for advantage.”

Ishiyama frowned. “Perhaps that is how you do things Endeavour. But it is not the Riotian way. We seek out those we love, regardless of where they stand.”

“So you would go as far as to let your son marry a quirkless?” Ishiyama spluttered as Toshinori’s hands curled into fists, Enji smiling at him cruelly. “Because that’s what that boy is. He is below even a commoner.”

“Oh hush King Enji,” Himawari scolded, tightening her grip on Toshinori’s arm. “I, for one, am glad you have allowed that boy into the palace. It’s such a kind thing to do.”

Given his...disability,’ was not said but implied. Toshinori pasted on a smile that he couldn’t believe anyone fell for. “Well, his mother was already in my service. It made sense to make use of him. And as for his quirklessness, it makes him harmless.”

“Indeed,” said Kaito, sending one of his servants to round up Tenya. “Now if you would excuse the princes, our journey was long and I should like them to rest. Tomorrow, however, I will leave Tenya with this...boy. Tenya should learn to interact with those his age.”

“Ah, then Ochako will join as well.” Toshinori turned to find said girl’s father, King Seiten, join his wife. “Plus, it will give her time to bond with both Tenya and Eijirou.”

That seemed to make Enji suddenly take an interest in Izuku. With four out of five kingdoms represented, Enji saw it for what it could be: an excellent chance to do reconnaissance. Children did like to talk so. Which was why Toshinori wasn’t surprised at all to find Enji saying,

“Of course Shouto will be in attendance.”

Behind him, Toshinori thought he caught Shouto smiling behind his hair. At least he would be having a relaxed day tomorrow.

 

***

 

Somehow, when being put in a room with three princes and one princess, the so-called servant’s son had to take control. Izuku had let them awkwardly try to make conversation for the better part of an hour before he’d given in, letting his head thud against the table. Shouto had looked at him like he’d grown a second head while Eijirou burst out laughing. Sighing wearily, Izuku propped his chin up on his hand.

“I-...I w-will answer questions because you...you all…” He sighed again before pointing to them all in turn. “Eijirou, we’ve had a really good harvest too. Shouto, no, the peace treaties do not seem fragile in Yuuei. Tenya, no, we haven’t made any new quirk discoveries. And Ochako, I love pastries too.”

He was met with stunned silence. Izuku folded his arms while his cheeks burnt. “I...I just...can we not just be friends?” he asked, voice quieter this time, barely above a whisper. “I don’t-...can’t we leave the politics to All Might a-and-”

“I’m sorry,” Tenya cut in, frowning severely. “But you are a servant, at best. You cannot lecture us on how to behave.”

“Hey!” Eijirou cried, slamming his fists on the table, quirk activating. “Deku is my friend! Insulting him is insulting me!”

“I...I am also Deku’s friend,” Shouto murmured, several heads whipping around. “We made acquaintances some years ago.”

“I bet I knew him first,” Eijirou muttered, Ochako giggling.

“Tell us Deku,” she said, poking him in the side and screwing her face up at Tenya, who looked scandalised. “Who did you meet first?”

“S-Shouto,” Izuku mumbled. To console Eijirou, whose face had fallen, Izuku held out his fist. Eijirou positively beamed, knocking their fists together. He then draped himself across the table so he could greet Izuku in the traditional Yuueian greeting.

“See? Friends!” he declared to Tenya.

Izuku waved his hands frantically. “We c-can all be f-friends!” he stammered. “B-but...if you are all uncomfortable talking...may I...Eijirou, can I ask a favour?”

Eijirou’s head cocked to one side. “A favour? Why, what do you want?”

“I...well, when last we met you...we spoke of seeing-”

“-a dragon,” Eijirou finished in breathless wonder. He then shot to his feet. “Yes, let’s! We have stables specially for the royal dragons. Do you want to see?”

“I do!” Ochako cheered, leaping up beside him.

“A-and me!” Izuku squeaked, laughing when Eijirou hoisted him up. He then held out a hand. “Shouto?”

Shouto nodded minutely, taking Izuku’s hand and squeezing it for a second. Izuku grinned, bumping their shoulders together and beating down a feeling of pride when Tenya announced that he would join them, that it would irresponsible not to. In his own castle, Eijirou had much more confidence than he did when he had been visiting Yuuei. Dressed in his kingdom’s royal garb of trousers with armoured knee guards and boots, shirtless with necklaces made of precious stones and dragon teeth, and a furred red cape, Eijirou looked every bit the prince he was. Each guard inclined their head at him, to which Eijirou just smiled and waved.

Leading them down one last twisting staircase, they arrived at the foot of a stone bridge. In front of them were steep cliff edges, the bottom hidden by mist. And on the other side of the bridge stood the dragon stables of Riot, tucked into the sides of a mountain.

Amazing,” Izuku breathed, though he trembled at the height of the bridge. He then jumped when a cold hand slipped into his. He looked up at Shouto, who was very much avoiding his gaze.

“I have no fear of heights,” was the only answer he got.

“I don’t like heights either!” Ochako protested, Eijirou leaning back to grab her hand. “Here, we can walk together. Tenya?”

“C-certainly not!” Tenya spluttered. “It is unbecomi-”

Tenya was cut off by Shouto abruptly pulling Izuku across the bridge, patience clearly having run out. “Y-you shouldn’t-...that’s n-not nice Shouto,” Izuku hissed under his breath.

Shouto shrugged. “You do not know Tenya as well as I. He can, regrettably, talk all day and has a stuffy air.”

Izuku squeaked, ducking into his collar to hide a giggle. Shouto gave him a tiny smile, thumbing the back of his hand. Izuku returned in kind, slowly gaining confidence enough to regale stories of the past two years. Shouto eventually opened up, Eijirou joining in, and then Ochako. Tenya added the odd sentence here or there but Izuku could tell he was slowly relaxing. Which was good because while their parents may have all had, quite frankly, weird relationships with each other, Izuku didn’t think that meant they had to.

“So!” Eijirou said with a twirl of his cloak, “I can’t show you too much but I can show you my dad’s dragon! Does that suit Deku?”

Izuku nodded, bouncing on his toes. Shouto barely managed to disguise a laugh as Eijirou whistled. A bone-shaking roar came from somewhere inside the mountain, the earth beneath them trembling as slowly but surely, a beast appeared from within. It towered over them, scales bright and wingtips scraping along the ground. Sharp claws shredded the stone path and smoke slipped through its teeth. Izuku withheld a gasp, jumping when Ochako’s fingers curled into his sleeve as she too watched with wide eyes. Eijirou approached the dragon fearlessly, making another, different sharp whistle. The dragon lowered its mighty head, Eijirou patting the snout as easily as Izuku might pet a cat.

“This is Creag,” he said, waving them over. “He will permit you to touch him since I’m here.”

“Eijirou…” Tenya said, eyes wide. “This...this creature is astounding.”

“Right?” Eijirou boasted, puffing his chest out. “Only Riot has dragons!”

“Good,” Shouto muttered, stepping forward and letting his hand rest next to the other prince’s. “My father doesn’t need this sort of power.”

“You should not say such things!” Tenya exclaimed. “Especially in such company!”

“Yuuei...All Might...I don’t think he’d w-want a...a dragon,” Izuku admitted, sending Tenya a smile before tentatively coming over, ready to run at any second.

Deku.” Eijirou’s voice was perhaps the sharpest Izuku had ever head. “He will not harm you. I said that. You trust me, don’t you?”

Izuku froze before bowing, gripping Eijirou’s arm lightly as he joined Shouto in patting Creag. “I-I’m sorry. You’re right, I do trust you.”

Ochako was then beside him and Tenya behind her. She had nearly as many questions as Izuku and, unlike him, was not afraid to ask them. Eijirou answered them all happily enough, explaining how he would be given his own dragon once he came of age, how each one was hand-reared from the moment it hatched, that Riot’s dragons could come in any colour between brown and red and that the more red, the higher the status of the one who owned it. Naturally, the Crimson Riot’s dragon was a most brilliant red, almost gleaming in the sun. And yet, surprisingly, they were not used for battle. They were used more for exploring, visiting hard to reach tribes and villages in the mountains, and for protecting the royal household. Never, since the establishment of the Five Kingdoms, had Riot brought a dragon to the battlefield.

“I...I like that,” Izuku admitted as the stables were shut and they made their way back to the castle. “I think...they don’t have a choice and forcing them to fight? To...to be aimed at, targets? That’s...it wouldn’t be fair.”

“I believe you are right.” Izuku’s head snapped up at the sound of Tenya’s voice, blinking in surprise when the prince thrust a hand in his face. “Please, allow me to apologise for misjudging you this morning Deku. If possible, may I join Princes Eijirou and Shouto in being your friend?”

Izuku blankly shook his hand. “O-of course. Although Ochako, you...you have to be my friend too!”

Ochako laughed, throwing her arms around him. “Silly Deku! I’ve been your friend from the moment I met you!”

At that point, the summoning bell rang. Izuku bowed and excused himself, returning to his mother’s quarters while the royals quickly made for their own wings to prepare for the evening meal. Izuku didn’t mind at all that he missed out on the fanciful meals; not when he got to curl up with his mother and chatter away about his adventures. No, that suited him just fine.

 

***

 

The next day found them all tucked up in one of the castles towers, candles lit all around the room as rain slammed into the windows. Eijirou had gotten the servants to bring up a plethora of blankets and cushions while Shouto had sent for a deck of cards. Situating themselves around a low table, Izuku had introduced them all to Go Fish, a simple enough game that was also fun.

“We have this game,” Ochako said as she was given a five from Tenya.

Eijirou made a thoughtful face, though it swapped to a grin when Tenya had to “fish”. “Hmm, I think it’s played in the countryside here. We call it something else though.”

“Go Mine,” Izuku supplied distractedly, tucked about against Shouto’s side and helping him play. Not that Shouto really needed the help but it was still his first round and Izuku thought it unfair to not lend a hand, especially since the cards were his.

“How do you know that Deku?” Ochako asked, passing a card to Shouto with a scowl.

He met her gaze levelly while Izuku answered, “When King Ishiyama last visited Yuuei, the servants played together after their masters had retired for the night.”

“Oh, that sounds like so much fun,” she replied dreamily. “The servants always seem to have better times.”

“Ochako!”

Ochako rolled her eyes at Tenya. “What? They do! They’re never concerned with politics and as Deku just said, the Riotian and Yuueian servants played cards together. I doubt my parents have ever played cards with yours for simply fun.”

“Father does not like games,” Shouto agreed. “Unless they are games of war.” Izuku made a tiny, distressed sound, Shouto biting his lip. “I...sorry Deku. That must be hard to hear given the tensions between our two kingdoms.”

Izuku shrugged, though he curled further into Shouto’s left side to show he wasn’t upset. “We all live in...in fear of war.” He then changed the subject with a simple, “Your left side is so warm Shouto.”

Shouto flushed, awkwardly coughing into his hand. “If you are cold, Eijirou has provided blankets.”

“I would prefer to be selfish and have both,” Izuku teased, doing just that; draping a blanket over his shoulders while burrowing into Shouto’s neck.

“You have no shame,” Shouto muttered, though he swapped his cards to his right hand. “However, next round you must play so you will have to move.”

Izuku grumbled but that was all, watching the royalty continue their game. Ochako fished once more before turning to Shouto. “I’ve seen your quirk, it’s ice. How is...ice doesn’t make you warm.”

“Ah,” Shouto agreed, determinedly focusing on his hand. “Ice is...half my quirk. I am what my father calls half-hot, half-cold. I have both fire and ice at my disposal.”

“Huh, how interesting,” Tenya mused, adjusting his glasses and inching closer. “I thought the Todoroki line was known for their fire quirks.”

“We are,” Shouto said. “But my mother possesses an ice quirk. It was passed onto one of my brothers, my sister, and, of course, to me. Touya, my eldest brother, is the only one of us to inherit a purely fire-based quirk.”

“The Iidas specialise in speed, don’t they?” Izuku asked, suddenly perking up and eyes brightening.

Tenya nodded proudly. “Yes! My brother, Tensei, has an incredible engine quirk, similar to mine. He is a wonderful prince! Ingenium is composed of five islands and a peninsula from the mainland and Tensei has already been given one of these islands to rule! He is loved by all and I look forward to the day I will serve under him.”

Izuku grinned, playing Shouto’s card for him before looking between Eijirou and Ochako. “And you? Brothers or sisters?”

They both shook their heads. “My…” Eijirou glanced at them all very sternly before saying, “Mum is rather ill. Dad does not think she will last many more seasons.”

Ochako was gasping as Izuku was slipping out of Shouto’s hold and pulling Eijirou into a hug. “I’m so sorry Eijirou,” he whispered.

Eijirou hugged him back, squeezing so hard Izuku grunted in pain. That earnt him a laugh. “Don’t be sorry for me, not yet. She still lives.”

“And may she still,” Izuku murmured, kissing his cheek and opting to sit between him and Shouto this time.

“We...Father and Mother simply cannot afford to,” Ochako admitted, head bowed. Tenya and Shouto stiffened, making Izuku reach over and slap them lightly. “Stop being princes and be her friend - th-this does not leave this room!”

“That’s not for you to decide,” Shouto pointed out.

“No, but my kingdom, my rules,” Eijirou cut in. “And I agree with Deku.” He then leant over to take Ochako’s hand. “It sounds like Uravity is doing it tough. I hope the rains come and you get a good harvest this year.”

Ochako smiled thinly, gesturing to the window. “Can I take this rain?”

“You can take it all!” Eijirou said with a laugh. “I hate the rain! If I can’t be outdoors, I feel like I might die!”

“Preposterous,” Tenya sniffed. “There is much knowledge that can be obtained by-”

Shouto sent Izuku a despairing look, Izuku matching it until he heard footsteps on the stairs that led to the room they were currently occupying. Muttering out a hurried “excuse me”, Izuku scampered as far from the table as he could, standing against the wall and making out as though he was just waiting to be called on. It was all well and good for King Ishiyama to designate him as a plaything but there was a great difference between plaything and friend and Izuku knew which side he had to pretend to be.

The door was pushed open by none other than Prince Tensei, taking in the princes and princess at the table and barely sparing Izuku a glance. “A new trade agreement has been established and King Ishiyama wishes it to be celebrated. You’re all requested as soon as possible.” He smiled at them all, ruffling Tenya’s hair when he was close enough. “This is good for Ingenium, Tenya!”

Tenya nodded and allowed himself to led off, already prying for details. Ochako sent Izuku a sad look but he just smiled. “What use do I have for gluttonous feasts? The more you eat and drink, the longer you sleep which means the longer I get to sleep as well!”

Eijirou slapped him on the back, waving him off at the Yuueian wing. “I’ll awake especially at sunrise for you!”

Izuku shoved him playfully in return, laughing as he headed back to his chambers.

 

***

 

Of course, they didn’t get to spend every day together. There were hunting trips to go on and ceremonies to attend; all of which were above Izuku’s status. No, on those days he got under the feet off all the Yuueians, who laughed and scolded him good-naturedly. Inko would pull him aside for the odd lesson here and there, as well as taking him outside the palace to explore Riot’s capital at leisure. Izuku desperately wanted to bring something back for Katsuki but it was too hard to explain...and they didn’t have the most money anyway. Yes, they could have asked All Might but Inko always felt embarrassed to do that.

Today though, they were on laundry duty. It perhaps wasn’t the most fun thing to do but Izuku almost found it refreshing. In a way, it was like being back in Shizuoka. Laundry was such a mundane thing, it was as though they’d never left home.

“Are you sure you can manage Deku?” Inko asked, for what had to be the tenth time.

Izuku pouted up at her, blowing a stubborn lock of hair out of his face. “Of course Mama! I-”

His mouth slammed shut and Inko went to ask why when she too felt the sudden temperature change. It was like someone had suddenly set the hallway on fire, heat prickling away at her. Izuku ducked to her side, head bowed low as he clutched his washing basket to his chest. It wasn’t any surprise that seconds later the Flame King strode towards them. He barely seemed to pay them any mind until he noticed Izuku, pausing in front of him.

“I hear your quirk never came in. That you are as useless now as you were two years ago.”

Izuku sunk down. “Y-Yes Your Majesty,” he whispered, adding a bow.

Enji snorted, reaching out and watching as the boy flinched. It took every inch of Inko’s will to not step between them. And, when the Endeavan King looked her way, she put on all the airs of submissiveness.

“I see you’ve managed to get some manners into him,” came the grunt. “About time. Still, the boy’s a waste of space. You’re lucky All Might is soft. In my kingdom, he’d be burnt at the stake for his quirklessness. Perhaps you would do well to remember that.”

“I...I shall,” Inko murmured, shooting a look at Izuku when he suddenly tensed, recognising how furious she was underneath. “Thank you, Your Majesty. For sparing my son.”

King Enji didn’t bother with a reply, marching off with flames wrapped around him and an entourage of guards. Inko snatched up Izuku’s hand and all but dragged him to the wash house. One look at her face had everyone else quickly ducking out, some of them sending sympathetic looks to Izuku, mistakenly thinking he had caused her wrath. Once the door was closed and the footsteps faded away, Inko threw her laundry to the ground.

“That...that man!” she seethed, stomping a foot. “Where does he...Izuku, you watch that man and tell Toshinori every weakness he has! I cannot stand the likes of him! To think, he would...because someone was quirkless...I could never!

Hands curled into her dress, Izuku burying his face in her stomach. “Mama.” His voice was barely a sob.

“Oh, Izuku,” she soothed, dropping to her knees and bundling him close. “You were so brave my son, so brave. You shouldn’t have heard that, you should never have had those things said about you. Quirk or no quirk, you’re a wonderful child Izuku.”

Izuku shook his head and Inko went to comfort him further when his words cut her off. “If...I am not the only quirkless person, am I? Then...King Enji...has he, a-already to o-others-?”

Izuku promptly broke down, knees buckling as tears streamed down his face. The worst thing was, Inko couldn’t even console him because everything she said would be a lie and Izuku would know. All she could do was tell Toshinori he had taken ill and to be given a day off duties. And if Toshinori came in and rocked Izuku in his lap, told him tall tales and sang him to sleep with old Yuueian lullabies, he was only doing his duty. As a father.

 

***

 

Stepping out onto the grounds where Eijirou, Shouto, Ochako, and Tenya were sparring, Izuku was just in time to see Eijirou flipped onto the grass. Shouto bowed in thanks, wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.

“That one doesn’t count!” Eijirou called as he clambered to his feet. “I was distracted; Deku’s here!”

“That’s no excuse,” Shouto said firmly, although he waved at Izuku minutely.

“Hey, you better now Deku?” Eijirou asked, sliding an arm around his shoulders. “I heard you were ill last night and it’s past midday now so…”

“I’m alright,” Izuku lied, smiling brightly and going to sit next to Ochako.

“Oh, don’t sit there Deku, I’m up to spar with Shouto.”

Izuku nodded, taking a seat next to Tenya instead. Tenya enquired after his health and Izuku asked about the proceedings yesterday. There wasn’t much news and none of it really interested Izuku. He was more interested in Ochako using her quirk to make Shouto float while Shouto used his ice to bring himself back to the ground.

“We agreed no quirks!” Eijirou said, affronted.

Izuku bumped his shoulder lightly. “Is that because if there were, you...you’d win?”

Eijirou nodded while Shouto turned to them, pinning Ochako with ice. “You don’t know that,” he said coolly, flicking frost from his hair.

Izuku groaned, flopping onto his back and ignoring them as they started to bicker. Sometimes, a lot of the time, quirks fascinated him. But there were other times, like now, where he absolutely hated them. Was it really such a big contest between them? And why did they care so much when quirks could do so much harm? Katsuki flashed into his head, and then the scar on Shouto’s face. Which, of course, led him to thinking about King Enji...which he really didn’t want to do.

Sighing heavily, Izuku rolled to his knees. Glancing around, he started to absently pick at the daisies closest, threading them together.

“Deku?”

He gave the barest of nods to show he’d heard, continuing with what he was doing. Ochako settled next to him, copying his actions and making her own daisy chain. “You’re good,” he murmured.

Ochako paused before pressing a kiss to his cheek. “You’d tell me if something was wrong, right?”

“No,” Izuku said honestly, only hunching over when the boys whipped around. “I...I’m a servant. I’m not supposed to b-bother you.”

“The other day you made it clear we were equals, not princes while in your company,” Tenya said rather accusingly. “You cannot play that one way and not the other!”

“I-I can!” Izuku countered firmly, managing a scowl. “Because-...you can do that but I...if I said things that got other people into trouble, it would only make things worse. Especially for me.”

“This is about something our parents did then,” Shouto surmised, eyes narrowing when Izuku flinched. He sighed. “I assume it was my father?”

“I...I didn’t say that! A-and I’m not going to!” Izuku turned back to his daisy chain adamantly. “Now, I am making this for Mama. Please...please do not ask any more questions.”

He yelped as a hand suddenly grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around. Shouto’s eyes were burning, his teeth clenched so hard his voice was nothing but a hiss. “I am Prince Shouto and I order you to tell me what he did to you.”

Izuku stared at him in shock before crumpling, squirming out of his hold and messily scrubbing the tears off his face. “Oi Shouto, that was rude!” Eijirou shouted, getting to his knees and fisting a hand in Shouto’s collar.

“If he is determined to be a servant then I will treat him like one,” Shouto shot back, doing his best to pry Eijirou’s fingers off.

“Both of you stop,” Ochako snapped, Izuku in her arms. “Deku’s the one who’s upset. Can’t you just be nice to him?”

“If he can’t speak up for himself then that’s his fault,” Shouto snarled.

Izuku glared at him, Shouto freezing at the look. After all, Izuku had never glared at him. Hell, none of them had ever seen Izuku so much as angry. Izuku’s hands were clenched into fists, shaking at his sides. “You’re just like your father.”

The words may as well as been venom from the way they were spat. Shouto reeled back, eyes widening as ice poured through his veins. Izuku seemed to realise what he’d said the second the words left his mouth, slapping a hand over his mouth and launching himself at Shouto.

“I’m sorry!” he gasped, hugging him furiously. “Shouto, please...I-I didn’t...you’re not, you’d never be him. I’m s-sorry Shouto! I didn’t mean it...Not, not like that. Please Shouto.”

To his relief, Shouto hugged him back in his own stiff way that Izuku had come to associate with the crown prince of Endeavour. “No, the fault was mine,” he said, letting his forehead rest against Izuku’s. “We have, and always will, be friends first. I cannot treat you the way a prince would. If I did, we would not last long as friends.”

“I’m still sorry,” Izuku whispered, rubbing their noses together. Shouto smiled, “Good. But please, please tell me. I promise it will not leave this circle…” His eyes flicked up. “Provided everyone agrees?”

They all nodded hastily, Izuku pulling away and cleaning his face once more. “Thank you,” he said, addressing them all. “I...You are...the best friends.” Izuku offered a watery smile. “And...I-...It was not so bad, really! I-it was simply...King Enji just said that if I were born in his land, w-with my quirklessness that I-...I-...”

Shouto’s voice broke. “He would have you executed.”

What?!” Eijirou cried, Shouto hastily slapping a hand over his mouth and pulling him down.

“Hush or you shall get us all in trouble, Deku most of all! There is a reason he said this to Deku and does not bring it up at meetings. My father did not dream Deku would tell us.”

“If my parents were to find out, they would protest greatly,” Tenya said, adjusting his glasses. “This...Surely this is merely speculation?”

The look on Shouto’s face said it very much wasn’t and Izuku was suddenly filled with horror because did that mean he had seen? Had Shouto been made to watch as people had been executed, burned alive, for their quirklessness? Izuku interlaced their fingers in support, Shouto managing a shaky smile.

“That’s disgusting,” Ochako snarled. “When I’m queen, I’m going to make him take away that law or Uravity won’t sign a treaty with him!”

“Ochako, no!” Izuku pleaded. “Don’t! Do not start a war bec-”

“You won’t have to,” Shouto said, getting to his feet and dusting his trousers off. “When I am king, that will be the first law to be abolished.” He squinted at the sun. “The hour is late, we should retire. I am sure we will be summoned soon.”

The others nodded, joining Shouto in returning to the castle. As they reached the main gates though, Shouto held back, pulling Izuku up with him. His eyes were burning once again, only this time they burned cold instead of hot. “I swear to you Deku, my father will never lay a hand on you. This is my oath.”

“I don’t need it,” Izuku said, screwing up his nose before relenting and pulling Shouto into his arms. “But...it is appreciated. Thank you Shouto.”

 

***

 

After three long weeks, the Kings’ Summit finally reached its end. Izuku’s things had all been packed away and the Yuueian party would be leaving at first light. It was expected that Toshinori would be very drunk, as would all the other kings and queens, so it was up to the servants to prepare everything. Tsukauchi was the one tasked with actually rousing Toshinori in the morning but, after over twelve years of servitude, he was used to it. But with everything in trunks and said trunks already loaded onto carriages, it left very little for Izuku to do. His mother was waiting on the lesser nobles and he had been told to return to his chambers no later than the tenth strike of the bell.

As it was, Izuku had settled himself down on one of the castle’s parapets, looking out across Riot’s capital one last time. It seemed the city itself had joined the festivities, the sound of music and hollering echoing through the night.

“Deku?”

Izuku stumbled, barely managing to keep his balance. He pouted at Ochako, who had looked worried for a second before clearly trying to disguise a laugh. “It wasn’t funny,” he grumbled.

“Oh aren’t you sour tonight,” Ochako remarked, coming to his side and resting her head on his shoulder. “Still, I see why. I’m going to miss you, Deku of Yuuei.”

“Don’t say such things,” Izuku scolded gently. “You are a princess, and I am a servant. We...We are friends but...I don’t expect you to miss me too much.”

“Then you don’t know how special you really are.” He looked at Ochako in surprise but she merely shrugged. “All Might made a good choice when he chose you.”

Izuku didn’t know what to say to that, flushing right to the tips of his ears and having to blink back tears. “T-thanks Ochako.”

She giggled, finally lifting her head as fireworks started across the city. “I think that’s my sign to retire. You will write to me, won’t you Deku?” At his confused look, Ochako flushed. “That is...I mean, only if you can write! I don’t know if servants-”

“I can’t,” Izuku lied, shame passing for embarrassment. “B-but if King Seiten and Queen Himawari ever come to visit Yuuei, y-you should join! I will be there,” he offered hastily.

Ochako grinned, clasping their hands together. “Then, until Uravity next meets with Yuuei.”

Izuku squeezed back. “Until then, Princess Ochako.”

 

***

 

Entering the white stone walls of the Castle of Endeavour didn’t feel like coming home to Shouto. Rather, it felt like walking into a prison, lead filling his boots and dread filling his bones. His servants descended in frightening precision, whisking his belongings away. Shouto had no doubt that by the time he and his father’s briefing with the council was over, everything would be cleaned and packed away. As though he had never left.

Council meetings were boring enough, Shouto more captivated by the clouds he could see through the windows then the bitter and pointed jabs being tossed around the room. In Endeavour, to put down the other kingdoms was the norm. Peace was always on the table...until the doors shut and Endeavour was left to its own devices. There the manipulation would start - loopholes here and conniving strategies there. All to gain power, all to increase Endeavour’s kingdom.

He was only drawn out of his absent mindedness by his father saying his name.

“-and Shouto spent a considerable amount of time with the other heirs.” Shouto merely blinked slowly when those cold eyes turned on him. “And what did you learn Shouto, whilst in their company?”

Deku’s face suddenly appeared in his mind. Deku crying, sobbing, as he revealed Shouto’s father had - however indirectly - threatened to murder him. How Deku had whimpered when Shouto spoke of impending war with Yuuei. He remembered the feel of Deku’s hand in his, smiling brightly when Shouto claimed the position of being his friend first.

And just like that, he had his father’s answer.

“Nothing.”

Silence swept the room.

Out.” The word was a growl, the nobles quickly getting to their feet as Endeavour towered over Shouto, flames licking across his skin. “It seems I need to teach my son a lesson.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

“Shit!”

Izuku jumped a good foot back, eyes wary. Still, the comment was probably deserved. A set of red eyes scowled up at him, upside down from where their owner had just been flipped into the earth. Izuku stammered out an apology but Katsuki growled, immediately silencing him. The blond then got to his feet, hands curled into fists and poised once more.

“Do it again.”

Izuku worried his bottom lip. “Kacchan, I-”

“Do it again!”

Katsuki threw a punch after the words and, on instinct alone, Izuku flipped him once more. Katsuki picked himself up with a sharper look this time and Izuku wasn’t too surprised to find the sky suddenly in his line of sight before he slammed into the ground. The air was punched out of his lungs and he groaned. Katsuki snorted, though he threw himself down a little way away to catch his breath.

Izuku didn’t really know how this had become a thing; his sparring sessions with Katsuki. All he knew was that Katsuki had been talking on and on about the upcoming Yuueian Sports Festival and how he was finally old enough to enter and Izuku must have offhandedly mentioned seeing the knights or knights’ children train because just like that Katsuki had snatched him up. Their initial “sparring” sessions had basically been Izuku being beaten and bruised until he ached but he’d argued against his mother when she tried to stop him. He wanted to learn how to fight - just like Shouto and Ochako did, like Eijirou - and if Katsuki was the only partner around he would take it, no matter what form it came in.

But now, nearly five months later, Izuku was doing much better at holding his own. Yes, he never limped away with victory but he could see every time that it was harder for Katsuki to win without using his quirk.

“Boys, supper!”

“Coming!” Katsuki called, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. Izuku copied, Masaru holding the door open until they’d stepped inside. Mitsuki and Inko were laying the last things on the table, the former jerking a thumb at the tub by the hearth. “Clean your stinking hands first!”

“I was gonna do that already, hag!” Katsuki spat, the pair quickly washing up before finding their places at the table.

Izuku had barely finished passing the plate of rolls onto his mother when Mitsuki pinched his arm, making him jump. “Saw that flip you pulled on Katsuki, kid. You’re getting better.”

“He’s still shit,” Katsuki scoffed.

Izuku pouted a little at that comment before smiling at Mitsuki. “T-thank you Auntie. I’m trying!”

“And you, Katsuki, are you ready for the Sports Festival?” Inko asked.

Katsuki puffed his chest out proudly. “You bet I am! I’m gonna be the best hero All Might has ever seen!”

Izuku had to fight to sit still in his chair. The Yuuei Sports Festival came around every summer and he’d always wanted to go. The melee style tournament was held on the grounds of the castle itself, people from all ages attending. The elite knights - the Heroes - would have mock battles to display their powers, the knights in training would get to present themselves, and even children were given a chance to participate. From the age of eight children could attend; using their quirks at their full strength for sometimes the first times in their lives, showing off what they could do, hoping to get their names remembered so that when they reached age twelve, they would get into knighthood on recommendation; To be so far above others that they received specialised training and lessons before being able to join Yuuei’s army at fifteen. Everyone else would have to fight their way through the system and, most likely, get lost along the way and end up back in their villages.

Izuku and Katsuki had been talking about it non-stop ever since he’d returned from Riot. Katsuki was finally old enough to enter and Izuku was almost as excited as he was. They’d both had moments of panic when the seasonal fires threatened to postpone the festival but All Might had sent word that the festival would go ahead as usual, that the fires were being dealt with by those with water quirks.

“I want to go!” Izuku said.

“No!” Katsuki cried, slamming a fist on the table. “I don’t want shitty Deku there watching me!”

“I don’t have to watch y-you,” Izuku pointed out. “T-there are other heroes Kacchan.”

Katsuki whirled on Inko. “Auntie, say no. Deku always gets to go to the stupid capital!”

Inko sent Izuku a look. “Katsuki is right, Deku. Let him have his turn.”

“B-b-but I’ve never seen the Sports Festival!” Izuku protested, frown forming on his face. “I want to see it too.”

“And I’ve said no,” Inko said calmly. “Perhaps ano-”

“Mama, pleas-

Midoriya I-...” Inko never finished her sentence but she didn’t need to, Izuku already sliding down in his chair and feeling his eyes begin to water. Katsuki rolled his eyes while Mitsuki just laughed, ruffling his hair.

“Oh toughen up there brat.”

That didn’t make Izuku feel any better and he only felt worse when his mother left her chair to come and crouch beside him. With a hand, she gently coaxed his face towards her. “I understand,” she murmured. “And I know the Sports Festival is exciting but remember, Katsuki and his family minded our property a whole season while we went away. Mitsuki will need help with both Masaru and Katsuki gone and don’t you think we should return the favour?”

Izuku hesitated before reluctantly nodding. “Yes Mama,” he whispered, letting himself be pulled into a hug.

Inko thumbed his tears away. “Thank you Deku.”

Izuku returned to his chair to the sight of Mitsuki shaking her head in disbelief. “Can’t believe the little shit actually listens when you talk to him like that. Gods know this one wouldn’t,” she said, pulling on Katsuki’s ear.

“Hey! Get-...ugh, get lost!”

An explosion rang out and Izuku had to smother a giggle behind his hands. Sometimes, he disliked Katsuki. Other times, he really, really liked him. This was one of those times.

 

***

 

A week later Katsuki was gone - headed into the capital with Masaru - and Izuku was alone. While there were other children in the village when Katsuki was around they teased Izuku but with Katsuki gone they flat out ignored him. Which suited Izuku fine and he was happy to explore the woods on his own but his mother suddenly had a lot more restrictions. Previously, Izuku had never been allowed to explore on his own, hence when he’d always gone out with Katsuki despite how much they fought. Once upon a time, Izuku would have been confused. Now though, he understood.

He was a prince.

The last thing All Might would want to hear was that the prince of Yuuei was dead because he’d gone out into the woods on his own and gotten lost. Or he’d fallen from a tree or into a ravine or something equally as stupid.

Still, it was nice to get some time to himself. Izuku had just finished his lessons for the morning and had been given the afternoon off as his mother had some errands to run and had to help Aunt Mitsuki in the apothecary. Ducking under a branch, Izuku grinned when he reached the outcrop that marked the edge of where he and Katsuki had explored up to. The rock gave them a beautiful view of the woods around them and, if they squinted hard enough and the weather was just right, the mountain range that marked the boundary for Endeavour could be seen.

It was hidden today though, hidden behind heat shimmers and the odd trace of smoke. Speaking of smoke...Izuku frowned when he realised there was a patch of smoke rising not too far away.

“A wildfire?” he murmured.

The season was right and Izuku quickly scampered down, mentally mapping how to get to the smoke in question. If there was a fire, he needed to report it to the village. Dipping and ducking through paths unexplored, mindful of burrows and the like, Izuku slowly picked his way towards the source. One hillcrest, then another, and then-...Izuku stopped dead. Those were voices. There were people here. Crouching down and creeping close, every drop of blood left his face when the figures came into view.

Endeavan soldiers.

There were Endeavan soldiers in Yuuei. Soldiers that very obviously weren’t supposed to be there, given the way they were skulking around. Izuku was ready to run when they began talking again and-and...shouldn’t he listen in? Shouldn’t he see what they wanted? Wasn’t that his duty?

“-ow much further?”

“Not far. The boundary to Uravity’s less than two days away. We stop burning there.”

Izuku bit back a cry, sinking to his knees. The fires, the seasonal fires that were “a little worse than usual”...They were Endeavour’s doing? But why?

“Have they even found one yet?”

A soldier snorted, propping his feet up on the log closest. “A kid with All Might’s quirk? I doubt it. If there was such a kid, All Might would have him locked deep in the palace.”

“Nah,” another said. “All Might’s too soft for that. Yuuei doesn’t have a secret heir. We’re taking those kids for nothing.”

“Hey now, give some credit! There’s plenty of people who said they saw All Might accompanying a woman with child just before the last war,” a third cut in. He then chuckled darkly. “Plus, I’m not against smoking them out, wherever the brat’s hidden.”

Izuku took the moment they all started laughing to run. To run like he’d never run before. His heart was pounding in his ears and he sprinted the entire way back to Shizuoka. Endeavan men were here and they were looking for him. Burning as they went, kidnapping other Yuueian children. Izuku sobbed at the thought that those children could very well be dead right now. Who knew what was being done to them after they were found to have the wrong quirk.

He nearly tripped several times and did actually fall into a puddle at one point but it didn’t matter, not when he burst into his home and found his mother just as she was heading over to the Bakugous. She didn’t even have time to say “Izuku?” before he was in her arms, body wracking with tears. Inko rocked him as she held him, shushing him while a hand ran through his hair and finally, finally, he was able to retell the story. By the end, Inko was as pale as he was, having to find a chair to sit in, head falling into her hands.

“He can’t...he can’t do that!” Inko managed, outraged.

“I know,” Izuku whispered, kneeling in front of her and resting his forehead on her knees. “We’re supposed to be safe here. A-and...Endeavour...They’re not allowed here!”

“Toshinori would be furious,” Inko agreed and suddenly, Izuku knew what he had to do. “Izuku, no.” Inko’s voice was sharp, fingers tilting his chin up. “Whatever you just thought of, the answer is no.”

Izuku shook his head, scooting back and scrambling to his feet. “No, I have to.”

His mother eyed him up for a long moment before realising his plan, eyes widening. “Izuku, you are not going to find Toshinori on your own!”

“I have to!” Izuku repeated firmly, though his voice was breaking. “I-...I have to do this Mama. I can’t…” his voice dropped off til it was barely audible. “I can’t be Deku forever. I...I have to be Izuku right now. Pa-...All Might needs to know.”

Inko brushed his hair off his face with trembling hands. “But why does it have to be you?”

He gave her a sad smile. “You know why.”

There was a long pause. Then a sigh. “I do. Pack your things and get out of Shizuoka unseen. Don’t take our mare.”

Izuku nodded, taking his mother’s hand when tears started filling her eyes, his doing the same. “I’ll be safe, Mama, I promise. I know the way.” He offered a weak smile. “You can say I went to visit Kacchan.”

Inko blinked before throwing her hands in the air. “You would you insufferable boy!” She then abruptly pulled him into her arms, crying quietly. “I’m heading to Mitsuki’s now and you shall be exploring still. I will be very distraught to find you missing this evening. But please don’t make me worry for real. Be safe and have your father send a raven the moment you arrive. Promise me this Izuku.”

He pressed their foreheads together, voice cracking. “I promise.”

And then his mother was out the door and Izuku was packing his things. He had a long journey ahead of him.

 

***

 

With the Sports Festival on, it luckily wasn’t that hard to get to the capital. All Izuku had to do was spin some lie about only just getting out of farm duties and wanting to support his brother. The Yuueians he’d met had all laughed and clapped him on the back and regaled similar stories, Izuku hopping from caravan to caravan until he was deposited at the city outskirts. The sun was just dipping over the horizon and it was now a choice of finding a place to spend the night or trying to sneak into the castle.

Hopping from foot to foot as he tossed up between the options, Izuku eventually started twisting through alleys that would lead him to the castle. In the end, his rage against King Enji gave him the confidence he needed. Or rather, it did until he hit the palace walls. At nighttime, it looked so much more daunting and there were guards on the entrances. Izuku had never had to deal with guards before. And he couldn’t just walk in. They wouldn’t let him, not without his mother in tow.

Contemplating, Izuku made for the servant’s entrance. It was, thankfully, less guarded and Izuku was able to slip onto the grounds. Weaving from shadow to shadow, he had nearly made it far enough around the castle’s wall when,

“Oi, see that?”

Izuku bit down a squeak, deciding whether to run or not when he was suddenly yanked into a crevice he hadn’t seen, a hand slapping over his mouth. He was pinned to a strong body, a whisper of “quiet” being breathed in his ear. Izuku obeyed without thought. He was tempted to call to the guards, lest this person be an intruder but then...he was too and All Might couldn’t defend him. That would be too suspicious, right?

“What did you see?”

Footsteps stopped just near their hiding place. “I thought...ah, must have been a trick of the light.”

“Too much festival going,” came the teasing reply. “Do you need your hours cut?”

“Oh hush,” was the good-natured answer.

The two guards walked away, footsteps finally disappearing. Izuku squirmed in place but a hand gripped his shoulder tightly, preventing him from moving. “I’ll ask this once,” came the almost tired sounding drawl. “You’re Izuku, right? All Might’s kid?”

Izuku went dead still, fear filling him. He immediately shook his head.

“Good.” The answer had him pausing. He was then released, the man who’d captured him crouching down til they were at the same height. “I know you don’t know me but, well, you need to trust me right now.”

Izuku took a step back. “Why?”

“Because, kid, I know who you are and I know who you’re here to see.”

A hand was held out towards him, Izuku shying away. “How do I know? You know nothing about me.”

“It’s my job to know,” came the cryptic answer. The hand was thrust out harder. “Now come, before the guards return.”

Izuku tentatively laid his hand in the man’s, gasping when he was whisked onto his back. The command of “hold on” was all the warning he was given before they were suddenly in the air, the man using what looked like ropes to scale the side of the castle. Landing on a particular window ledge, Izuku looked behind him and his breath caught because he recognised the view. They had gone straight to All Might’s room. But how had he known...?

Izuku didn’t get to come up with an answer before the window was pried open and he was deposited in the shadows with an order to stay. The elusive figure then slipped to Tsukauchi’s room. There were hushed murmurs before Tsukauchi entered All Might’s chambers, stepping to the door at what looked like a request from his mysterious helper and telling the guards outside to leave. The manservant then went to Toshinori’s side, shaking him awake.

And, after five harrowing days, Izuku finally felt as though he could relax.

 

***

 

Toshinori came to slowly, unused to being woken in the middle of the night. He then suddenly jerked awake all at once because the middle of the night? Something had to be wrong! A hand on his shoulder stopped him from leaping out of bed altogether and Toshinori looked up, finding Tsukauchi there. He then blinked. And Aizawa. Aizawa was there too, looking very bored and staring at the other side of the room lazily.

“Aizawa, is everything alright?”

Aizawa’s gaze turned to him before shrugging. “I wouldn’t think so. Not with…”

His hand gestured across to where he had been staring and Toshinori heard Tsukauchi gasp the same second he recognised the figure hidden by the window. He had never gotten out of bed so fast, throwing himself down and pulling his son into his arms.

“Izuku, Izuku my boy, what’s...Why are you here? And alone! Your mother-...is she-?”

“See, this is why I told you to send the guards away,” Aizawa drawled from behind him, lighting a candle and taking a seat on the table closest. “Spotted him running across the grounds. Got to him just before the guards did.”

“Thank you,” Toshinori said sincerely, shifting to his chair and bringing Izuku with him; Izuku who was still uncannily quiet and was simply burrowing into his shirt. “Izuku, please. What’s wrong?”

Izuku finally pulled away, face set in a determined frown. “You have to promise you won’t say I’m lying.”

All three adults exchanged looks, Toshinori waving a hand at Tsukauchi, who nodded. “Of course; my quirk allows me to tell. What do you have to say that is such a-”

“King Enji has ordered his men to set fires throughout Yuuei. He’s...they’re taking c-children too and te-testing for...a quirk like All Might’s.”

Toshinori went cold. Aizawa was snapping his fingers, getting Izuku’s attention. “How did you find this out?”

“I...I overheard,” he whispered. “There were...there were Endeavan men near my village. They plan to burn as far as Uravity.”

“He wouldn’t dare,” Toshinori finally spat, body shaking with rage. “He wouldn’t-...That...Everything could be thrown into jeopardy! Enji wouldn’t risk-”

“He isn’t lying.” Tsukauchi’s voice was laden with grief.

“I’d suspected something similar.” Toshinori and Tsukauchi turned to Aizawa. “I was aware of the people disappearing due to the wildfires; it’s expected every year that not everyone will survive. But there have been more missing children than ever. I was looking into it. If King Enji has ordered his men to blaze villages and then steal children, we would pass it off as a mere accident. The majority of Yuuei has been. His plan is smart.”

“I will go,” Toshinori declared, arms tightening around Izuku. “At first light, we-”

“Should do nothing.”

Izuku whimpered, Toshinori glaring. “And why is that, Aizawa?”

“Send your soldiers out, even plan a visit to the borderlands after the Sports Festival but do not accuse Enji. If you do, war is sure to break out. And if the worst happens, are you ready to have him on the throne?”

The question was ended with a finger pointing at Izuku and Toshinori felt the fight drain out of him. “Papa?” Izuku asked but Toshinori was already shaking his head, tucking Izuku under his chin. “He is too young, still far too young,” Toshinori murmured. “Izuku has not yet learnt half the things I want him too, nor is he old enough to rule the kingdom. King Enji would be merciless and swift.”

Over Izuku’s head, the three of them reached an agreement to continue this later. Aizawa gave Izuku a nod before leaving, Tsukauchi excusing himself and heading to his own chambers. Toshinori stayed up a little longer. With Izuku in his arms, it kept the dark thoughts away, even if only just. He could focus on Izuku and not the suffering on his people for two minutes. Which was probably why, when Izuku fell asleep, Toshinori carried the boy over to his own bed, tucking him in and kissing his forehead.

“Mama?”

“Shh,” Toshinori murmured, rubbing small circles into Izuku’s back until he fell asleep once more. The word, however, had Toshinori remembering one vital thing, padding over the window and whistling. Yami came down from the aviary, patiently waiting as Toshinori scribbled out a note and attached it to his leg, sending him off. He then climbed into bed, letting Izuku’s breathing lull him to sleep.

Some days later, Midoriya Inko would see Yami arrive and clutch the note he had brought with shaking hands.



I have him. He is safe.

Y.T.



***

 

Izuku awoke the next morning to the sun high in the sky and the room filled with a pleasant warmth. Burrowing into the blankets further, Izuku frowned when he realised that these blankets were not his own. Sitting up, he was sharply reminded where he was. He was in Yuuei’s castle and he had passed his message along. He had done his duty as prince. He had, for once, made a difference.

Slipping to the floor, Izuku shuffled over to his father’s desk, where a plate of food was laid out, a change of clothes, and a note. Picking his way through breakfast, Izuku studied the note, brief as it was. The information it contained was simple: when Toshinori was not at the Sports Festival he would be in council meetings discussing Endeavour’s actions, his mother had been informed of his arrival, Izuku was to stay out of sight as much as possible, and if he absolutely needed something, to go and see Aizawa. There was a little diagram drawn there to help and Izuku momentarily blanked on the name until he remembered it belonged to the man who had helped him the night before.

Changing into fresh clothes and folding the note into his pocket, Izuku crawled back into bed. If he was to remain hidden, the very least he could do would be to catch up on the sleep he had missed over the past several days.

That nap over, it was well into the afternoon and Izuku could hear noises from outside, the loud calls of the town crier and the faint rumblings from quirks. He wondered if Aizawa would classify seeing the Sports Festival as something he “absolutely needed”. Izuku sincerely doubted it, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Easing open the door of his father’s chambers, Izuku breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the hallway empty. With no visiting royals, it seemed the castle had less guards on staff than usual which made it easier for Izuku to duck and weave his way around. A few servants recognised him, frowning before smiling and waving; belatedly he realised they must all have come to the conclusion that they simply hadn’t seen Inko yet. He made sure to wave back, jogging up a spiral staircase and down a narrow corridor that led him towards the office Aizawa apparently occupied.

Taking one more turn, Izuku skidded slightly when he found himself face-to-face with another boy his age. Izuku smiled at him brightly but the boy just frowned, expression stern. “Are you lost?”

Izuku laughed, shaking his head. “No, I-”

And just like that, something in his mind snapped shut, ice pouring into his veins. His mouth closed and the boy took a step forward, Izuku powerless to move. Was this...was this a quirk? Did this boy-...

“Who are you?”

Don’t answer, don’t answer!

“...they call me Deku.”

The boy’s head cocked to the side. “They? And where are you going, Deku?” The way he said ‘Deku’ made it clear he didn’t believe him at all.

“I’m going to see Aizawa,” came the honest reply, Izuku wanting to kick himself. “I want him to take me to the Sports Festival. I want to see Kacchan.”

An unimpressed snort. “Papa would never. Now tell me again, who are you?”

Izuku trembled, fighting against the fear crashing into him, trying to weave an answer. “I’m not allowed to say,” he finally said. “Papa said I can’t. Mama and Kacchan...they’d get hurt. And war...war would follow with Endea-”

That icy feeling suddenly dropped away, a hand covering his mouth. The boy was staring at him with wide eyes. He then backed away, bowing deeply. “Forgive me, I shouldn’t have used my quirk on you. You-...Your secrets, they’re too dangerous for me to know.”

Izuku watched the boy walk a few steps before racing after him, catching him by the wrist. “H-hey, wait! Was that...was that your quirk? It was incredible!”

He was eyed up coolly. “Most people say it’s an evil quirk.”

Izuku frowned. “Are you evil?”

“...no?”

“Then how can it be an evil quirk?”

He got answered with a slow smile and a hand being extended towards him. “Hitoshi.”

Izuku hesitated a long moment, torn. “I...you already know a lot so...Izuku. I’m Izuku.”

“Izuku,” Hitoshi repeated. “You wanted to see Papa, right? Come on, I know the way.”

“W-wait, your father is Aizawa?” Izuku asked as he trotted along beside Hitoshi. His new friend nodded. “And he...he’s a spy, isn’t he?” Another nod. “Well, if you want to be like him, your quirk is perfect! Y-you’d be a great spy! You could get information without even having to hurt anyone; that’d be amazing!”

Hitoshi tripped over his feet, awkwardly looking away. “I...I suppose you’re right. I never thought about it like that...my Prince.”

Izuku shrieked, playfully smacking Hitoshi on the shoulder. “You can’t say that Hitoshi!”

“No,” he agreed. “But you liked it,” he added with a smirk.

Izuku rolled his eyes, coming to the door Toshinori had said was Aizawa’s. He went to knock when Hitoshi pushed the door open without a care, meeting his father’s gaze flatly and jerking a thumb at Izuku. “I used my quirk and accidentally found out who he was so now we have to take him to the Sports Festival.”

Aizawa stared at them in despair. He then went to the window and whistled sharply, a falcon appearing. He scribbled out a note and sent the bird away. “I don’t have to do anything,” he said coolly. “You, however, will have to take Deku to the Sports Festival...with your dad.”

Hitoshi groaned. “Papa, not Dad!”

Suffice to say, Izuku was very confused.

 

***

 

Returning to his chambers, Toshinori wearily slumped into his chair. He and his council had bickered and argued about what to do in regards to King Enji all day. To call him out would lead to war but to let him continue was a sign of weakness. They’d eventually settled on some sort of compromise, sending out more knights and heroes to where the wildfires were and also making use of those with speed-based quirks. If they could “accidentally” shoot ahead and find Endeavan soldiers on their land, they would capture them and Toshinori would have proof. The majority had already departed and now it was just a waiting game.

Dropping his head into his hands, Toshinori sighed heavily. Why was it that every time the peace treaties between their kingdoms was at its strongest, Endeavour was always up to something behind everyone’s backs? Was it too hard for them to want peace too?

Hearing muffled voices from his manservant’s room, Toshinori lifted his head just in time to see the door between their chambers open and Izuku come flying over. Toshinori was unable to stop a smile forming on his face, hoisting Izuku into his lap and brushing their noses together. “How was your day my boy?”

Izuku bounced up and down excitedly, hands flying as he spoke at near impossible speeds. “It was amazing! I saw Aizawa and I met his son and we got to go to the Sports Festival! Did you know Aizawa is married to Yamada, the town crier? I d-didn’t know and Hitoshi is their son and I don’t know how without a mother but that aside, the festival Papa-!”

Izuku prattled on and on, although Toshinori was sure very little went in after “Aizawa is married to Yamada”. How did Izuku know this? Toshinori had lived in the palace his whole life and never known! And a son? This was the ‘Hitoshi’ Aizawa had mentioned some three years earlier? He sent Tsukauchi a disbelieving look, his servant just putting his hands in the air. Izuku, it seemed, had the gift of being able to make friends within minutes. That ability alone was probably more powerful than any quirk out there.

“Papa, you’re not listening,” Izuku groused, pouting up at him adorably.

Toshinori tapped his nose in reprimand. “A king is always listening Izuku. You were saying you missed seeing Young Katsuki but were able to see the knights-in-training do battle.”

Izuku was suitably chastised, breathing out an apology before starting up again. This time, he talked himself into sleep, head thudding against Toshinori’s chest. Toshinori rumbled out a chuckle, twisting a lock of Izuku’s hair around his finger. “Tsukauchi?”

“Yes sire?”

“If I could, I would never have him leave my side.”

“...I know.”

 

***

 

In the end, there was nothing Izuku could do in regards to Endeavour and King Enji’s men being on Yuuei soil. The situation was taken out of his hands and he was told to think no more on the matter. That was an impossible request but Izuku did his best to try. Asking his father for details did nothing, Toshinori just giving him a tired smile before sending him on his way. In the end, he was left to shadow Hitoshi, who seemed to be the only person in the castle his age. Hitoshi didn’t seem to mind. He was quiet and reserved but he smiled at Izuku’s jokes and let himself be pulled along.

Certainly, Izuku’s favourite thing was the Sports Festival. He knew he wasn’t there for fun and that he had actually come to the capital on quite serious business but since those matters were out of his hands...No, instead he watched round after round, he and Hitoshi close to the front but away from the crowd, tucked inside Yamada’s commentating box. Yamada himself was something else to behold, all vibrance and energy and hearing his quirk so close up often left Izuku’s ears ringing. He also got to see Katsuki compete on two separate days, scraping his way up to first place.

“Is that your friend?” Hitoshi drawled, leaning back in his chair and watching Katsuki be awarded his prize.

“Mmm,” Izuku hummed, not a confirmation or a denial. “That’s Kacchan. He’s...amazing.”

Hitoshi raised an eyebrow. “So, he’s like that, huh? The one with flashy quirks often are.”

Izuku shot him a stern look. “Please, Hitoshi, don’t talk about Kacchan as though you know him. He...he isn’t what you think. But...well, maybe also he is.”

Hitoshi groaned, lolling his head onto his shoulder. “I hate you Izuku.”

Izuku giggled, wrapping an arm around his friend. “I certainly hope not. One day, I-...I hope to rely on you...I-if that’s what you want!” he added hastily.

Hitoshi blinked up at him. “I...Hmm, I suppose that could work. At least I get a job.”

“You’re too young to think about such things,” Izuku retaliated. He then got to his feet, holding a hand out to Hitoshi. “Come, they will break for now and I have it on good authority that cook has made blueberry pinwheels.”

 

***

 

The day the Sports Festival ended, Tsukauchi - disguised as a simple fisherman from the north - took Izuku down into the capital. He had already had the Bakugou’s temporary residence found and would leave Izuku there. Inko had written some two days earlier to say Shizuoka had been spared from the fires but that it had come close and they had fled to Uravity’s border. Izuku was to go with the Bakugous and pass this on without revealing he knew any of the facts. It would be a challenge but Izuku had taken it in its stride. It would not be the biggest challenge he would ever face by far.

Nearing the lodging, Izuku’s heart leapt into his throat when he saw the Bakugou’s wagon pulling away.

“Ah! - Kacchan!

He made to sprint but Tsukauchi pulled him back by the collar. “And where d’ya think you’re off to Deku?”

He paused at the new accent though they’d already drawn the attention they needed. “Deku?”

Izuku raised his head at Masaru’s voice only to yelp and jump back when Katsuki shot towards him, exploding the very spot he’d been standing in. “What are you doing here you shitt-”

“Oh, so he came with you,” Tsukauchi drawled, the picture of exasperated relief. “Turned up at the palace last night saying he’d been at the Sports Festival and needed a place to stay. Got turned away, as it were, so I knew he’d come with someone.”

“Like hell he came with us!” Katsuki yelled, palms smoking.

“I’m sorry, we-...Katsuki, stop that!” Masaru scolded before stepping between them. “Deku didn’t come with us. We know him, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, but we didn’t bring him here.” Masaru then crouched down, taking Izuku’s shoulders in his hands. “Deku, how did you get here?”

Izuku bit his lip, shaking his head silently.

“He came by himself?” Tsukauchi crowed. “That’s a brave lad!”

“Shut up; he’s not!” Katsuki spat, grabbing Izuku by the wrist and yanking him away. “He’s quirkless and useless so leave us alone!”

Katsuki.”

“You know he is Papa!”

Izuku didn’t get anymore say, Katsuki quite literally tossing him into the back of the wagon and then climbing up himself. Masaru apologised to Tsukauchi profusely before jumping into the front himself, cracking the reins and getting their horse moving once more. He soon turned and met Izuku’s gaze severely.

“You understand just how much trouble you’re in, don’t you Deku? I’ve half a mind to scold you myself. You cannot simply leave because you...Deku, was the Sports Festival that important?”

“No Uncle,” Izuku whispered, hunkering down and voice shaking. “I just...I wanted to see Kacchan win.”

“I understand,” Masaru said, softly but firmly. “But that doesn’t make your behaviour acceptable nor does it excuse your actions. I hope you realise, you acted very selfishly.”

Izuku didn’t answer that, just sniffling into his sleeves as he hugged his knees. He knew he hadn’t done any of those things but the words...they still hurt.

“Oi Deku, stop...stop your crying, alright?” Katsuki growled, throwing himself down next to him. “The old man’s right. You deserved that shit. You didn’t have to follow me, you know?”

“I didn’t,” Izuku bit out, angry and hurt. “I-I would have gone whether you were there or not.”

Katsuki didn’t seem to like that, fisting a hand in his shirt. “Oh yeah? Don’t lie to me you shitstain! And that little stunt of going to the castle - what was that all about?”

Izuku hesitated, hesitated greatly before curling his hands over Katsuki’s. His friend froze, stunned by the contact. He made to pull away only to stop when Izuku spoke, voice barely a whisper so Masaru wouldn’t overhear. “Kacchan, I...I’m...All Might’s my father.”

Katsuki’s eyes widened, staring at him for a long, long time. Izuku then yelped when a backhand sent him tumbling to the floor of the wagon. Katsuki was pulling him up before the first tears could even fall. “Don’t you ever compare All Might to your sorry arse ever again!” he growled. He let Izuku go with a scoff. “Useless Deku.”

Izuku swallowed back a sob. He’d messed up, he’d messed up so bad. Now he could only hope that Katsuki wouldn’t repeat his words to Masaru. He didn’t seem to and, four days later, that became the least of their problems. No, returning to Shizuoka and finding it abandoned became their first and only priority.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Shizuoka was eerily quiet. Wind blew through the abandoned houses, the odd door or shutter creaking as it moved. None of the buildings were burnt and there was no sign of a hurried evacuation just...an organised one.

“I’ll check the house, you stay here,” Masaru ordered.

Katsuki folded his arms grumpily but did as told, Izuku nodding fervently right up until Masaru entered his home. Then Izuku was off, vaulting over the side of the wagon and sprinting towards the woods.

“Oi, Deku!” Katsuki bellowed, jumping down and chasing after him.

Izuku didn’t give him a chance to catch up, bee-lining for the closest tree and starting to scale it. Katsuki blasted his way up beside him but didn’t attempt to drag Izuku down. Izuku knew why though. From their vantage point they could see the extent of the damage. The wildfire - or “wildfire”, he supposed - had come within a mile or two of the village before stalling at the river. It hadn’t come further but it had obviously been enough to scare everyone. All the places Izuku and Katsuki had played as children were gone, nothing left behind but charred woods and black ash.

“Deku…”

Katsuki’s voice was filled with horror and, for once, Izuku didn’t answer him. If he tried to console him, or even agree with him, they would fight once more and this was not the time for fighting.

Twisting around, Izuku studied the outskirts of the village. His mother had said they’d headed in the direction of Uravity. If that were so, they would have gone south. He eyed the trails leading south and frowned when he noticed what looked like large amounts of footprints on one of them.

“Kacchan!” he called sharply, his friend whipping around and following his pointing finger. “Is that...are they footprints?”

Katsuki squinted harder before making a noise of agreement. He then lowered his gaze to where Masaru was stepping out of the Bakugou’s home. “Oi Papa, they went that way!”

Masaru looked disgruntled, shaking his head at them. “Thank you Katsuki but I told you to stay!”

“I left first!” Izuku volunteered, clambering down only to cry out when a branch gave way.

Masaru caught him before he hit the ground. “Deku, gods. You will give someone a heart attack one of these days, I’m sure. Please be more careful.”

Izuku ducked his head sheepishly. “I will.”

“Come on Papa!” Katsuki whined, pulling on his hand. “We don’t have time to waste with stupid Deku! We have to find Mama and everyone else.”

“We will, we will,” Masaru assured, going to rest a hand on Katsuki’s cheek only to get knocked away. “Alright then. But back to the wagon, both of you. And stay this time, I mean it.”

Katsuki complained as always and Izuku nodded meekly as always. They climbed back up and Masaru turned them in the direction the tracks had led. There was nothing peaceful about their journey then. They were all looking for new movement, new signs of life, anything when dirt turned to stone and footprints became impossible to track. From there it was things like old campfires, a piece of cloth snagged on a tree, the remains of a fruit.

Three days in, and running precariously short on supplies, they found them. Tucked in a valley, well over Uravity’s border, were about half the residents of Shizuoka. And, most importantly, among them was,

“Mama!”

Inko whirled around, tears preventing her from speaking as Izuku threw himself into her arms. She scooped him up for all that he was eight-years-old and held him tight, burying her face in his neck. Izuku gripped back just as tightly, sobbing out “Mama” over and over. Inko shushed him and carded her fingers through his hair. She finally gathered herself enough to cup his face with a hand, kissing the other cheek. “Oh my boy, you’re safe, you’re safe.”

“Alright, final deal, we’ll take the boy as insurance.”

“You’re not taking Katsuki anywhere!”

Izuku whipped his head around at that, Inko depositing him to the ground and facing the group of soldiers blocking their way through the valley. Izuku recognised the uniform easily enough: Urati soldiers. Mitsuki had a hand in front of Katsuki but the guard was already shaking his head, pointing at Izuku.

“No, him.”

“Mama?” Izuku peeped, Inko pushing him behind her furiously.

“My son will not be going anywhere with you,” she said, voice belying calm and in a tone that Izuku had only had once before; he’d come to recognise it as her royal voice. “Yuuei and Uravity are at peace, as are all the five kingdoms. As Yuueians, we may enter your kingdom without restrictions.”

There was a tiredness in her voice and, oh, they must have been at this for awhile.

“Under normal circumstances, we would allow it,” the same guard said equally as tiredly. “But we allow others to visit so that they made trade with us and support our kingdom. You have admitted to having no money on you. You could bring nothing to Uravity; you would only take.”

“We are here seeking asylum!” Inko barked, several eyes widening. “That alone requires you to let us enter.”

Mama,” Izuku hissed as sharply as he dared. “If you make them mad they won’t help us at all.” He then stepped forward, ducking away from her grabbing hand. “You spoke before of a deal, if I came with you. M-May I hear it?”

“I-Deku, no!”

Izuku sent his mother the sternest face he could manage, turning back to the guard. “I-if it is insurance you w-want, I...I am quirkless.” He pointed at Katsuki. “H-he is my...f-friend and he will confirm. I...I can’t harm you,” he finished in a whisper.

The guards exchanged a look, a younger one stepping forward and crouching before Izuku. “We cannot let you further without pleading your case to leader of the closest village. Can you say what has happened when you’ve only just arrived?”

Izuku nodded resolutely. “I s-saw. My village is b-burnt.”

A hand was held out to him. “Then we have a deal.”

“We do not!” Mitsuki shouted at the same time Inko protested. “That’s a goddamn child you’re taking. He can’t plead for shit!”

“Auntie, please!” Izuku begged, sparing her a look before dashing to his mother, pulling her down and breathing into her ear, “They will not let you in because they have no money or provisions themselves. Ochako told me. Please, I’ll be safe.”

Inko softened though her hands trembled. “But I...I have only just gotten to see you.”

“And you will see me again soon,” Izuku promised, resting his forehead against hers. “Now let me do this.”

“I think I preferred when you were nothing but a country boy.”

Izuku smiled sadly. “I think I did too.” He then walked back to the guard, cautiously holding a hand out. He was met with a sympathetic smile, his hand being taken and gripped reassuringly. “You’ll bring me right back?”

“Yes.”

Izuku frowned for a long moment before nodding. He heard Katsuki and Mitsuki yelling, his mother biting back tears, and general protests from the other villagers but he flashed them the most reassuring smile he could. He would be fine, he was sure of it. Uravity wasn’t like Endeavour. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Urati people were most like Yuueians. Hopefully that would be enough to get him through this. He was small and timid and that was good, right? Adults usually fell for that sort of thing.

However, once the guard led him round several turns and then one more before the valley opened up onto a waterfall surrounded by greenery, Izuku realised what the situation truly was. Because there, around the waterfall, were tents bearing the royal seal of Uravity. That meant the king was here, or at least his wife or maybe even Ochako. Which was why security was so tight, why they were refusing to let them in. Perhaps they’d even been taken for assassins, assassins playing the innocent card. It would make sense with the Urati guards taking a child. But, if Ochako was here, then things were truly in his favour.

Reaching the largest tent, the guard called out before being summoned in. Izuku followed on his heels, head lowered submissively. This was an act he was very familiar with.

“Your Majesties!” the guard began, bowing deeply. “We currently have a situation on the northern edge of the camp. I have br-”

“Deku?!”

Izuku simply bowed lower, not daring to left his eyes. “Princess Ochako,” he greeted shyly, not blind to the way the jaw of the guard next to him dropped.

“Darling?” Queen Himawari asked.

Izuku’s gaze flicked up as Ochako started talking, smile wide. “You remember, from the Kings’ Summit? This is Prince Eijirou’s particular friend. He is Yuueian and-”

“The quirkless boy,” Himawari murmured, nodding and blind to her daughter’s indignant pout. “Why yes, I remember him. Are you sure it is him?”

“It’s only been a year Mama,” Ochako pointed out.

“He...did confess to being quirkless,” the guard added, to which Izuku nodded.

Himawari waved him forward, taking Izuku’s chin in her fingers and studying his face. “Why, you have not long been crying. Pray tell, what is the matter?”

“I...was separated from Mama,” he explained, voice low and hitching. “We had-...I had only just reunited with her. Our village...we fled from the fires. We are without food or water.”

Himawari frowned, glancing to the guard who nodded. “How far is your village, Deku of Yuuei?”

“Some three days Your Ma-majesty.”

She dismissed him, talking over his head. “How many in this Yuueian party?”

“I’d say no more than twenty.”

“Bring them here,” she ordered. “They may rest here tonight and share our food. In the morning we will give them rations and send them on their way. We do not let those around us starve.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Take the boy,” Himawari called as Izuku was set to be left behind. “Returning without him would be perilous and even I would not step in to assist you.”

With that, Izuku was pulled away but not without one last look at Ochako. She grinned at him, indicating that they would talk later. Izuku bit back a smile, sending her a shy thumbs up. Perhaps, being royalty was not so bad after all.

 

***

 

Finally truly reunited with his mother, nothing could get Izuku to leave her side. He padded behind her faithfully and dodged conversation with anyone else tried to talk to him. Inko had encouraged him to open up the first few times before relenting, apologising when they approached and saying Izuku didn’t feel up to it. Which was true, he didn’t. The last two weeks had been nothing but worry and anxiousness and what Izuku craved, more than anything, was his own bed and to share it with his mother.

“You’re exhausted, aren’t you?” Inko asked as they settled underneath a tree, the Yuuei camp set up beside Uravity’s tents.

“Mmm, in here,” he mumbled, pointing at his chest. He then curled into his mother’s side. “I missed you Mama.”

Inko drew him closer, thumbing his cheek tenderly. “I missed you too. Now, rest. We have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow.”

Izuku nodded, letting his eyes sink shut and the steady beat of his mother’s heart to send him off to sleep. He was dozing when he heard footsteps approaching. He tried to open his eyes but found he was too tired, shifting closer to Inko instead.

“Oh, is he sleeping?”

Had he not been so deep in sleep’s grasp, Izuku would have shot upright at Ochako’s voice. “I...I’m afraid so,” Inko said awkwardly. “I will wake him for you, You-”

“No, no, please don’t!” Ochako said quickly. “He looks peaceful and he said you had all been on the road some time. I am sure you need rest. I should, however, like to speak to him later.”

“Of course,” Inko agreed.

Izuku thought that was the end of it until he heard the sound of dirt shifting, as if Ochako had sat herself in front of them. “If I may though, I have a question.”

He could feel Inko nod. “I will answer anything. It is not my place not to.”

Ochako made a displeased sound but continued nonetheless. “Deku is a servant of All Might as, I believe, are you. If that is so, why are you so far from Yuuei’s capital?”

“I serve All Might in the form of a tutor for noble children and knights,” was Inko’s practised reply. “I travel to the capital only when needed, though it is where I spent my childhood. Deku...his friends know where he goes but not what he does.”

“...they would be jealous, wouldn’t they?”

“Perhaps.”

“Then, please continue to pass on my request for us to speak. However, it can wait until the other members of your camp are asleep. I shall await him at the base of the waterfall.”

“Of course Your Majesty.”

There was the sound of Ochako leaving and then, “I hope you know, it doesn’t do a prince to be lazy.”

Izuku whined. “Mama!

 

***

 

“Ochako?”

The princess turned, face lighting up. “Ah, Deku! Come, sit!”

Izuku smiled, carefully picking his way over to the rock closest to hers. The mist from the waterfall tickled his cheeks and the sounds of camp - those seldom few still awake - were hidden by the rushing water’s roar. He took Ochako’s hand when she held it out to him, squeezing it lightly and giggling when she interlaced their fingers.

“Now we are friends,” she murmured, indicating their fingers.

“I thought we were,” he teased, though he shuffled closer.

Ochako poked her tongue out. “You seem well, despite your journey.”

“I am,” Izuku said, eyes studying the water in front of them. “I have...had many moments when I was scared and l-lost but...we are all found now. We can start again.”

“I’d offer help, if I could.”

Izuku quickly shook her off. “Don’t worry, All Might can help us - we just haven’t the time to contact him yet. I’m sure, in fact, he can pay you for whatever we take in our visit.”

Ochako hesitated there before nodding. “It would...it would be fair, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh absolutely,” Izuku agreed.

They shared grins before silence fell, Izuku studying the sky and not being too surprised when Ochako moved so her head was resting on his shoulder as it had at the Kings’ Summit those many months ago. She rambled on to him about everything, her new friends at the palace, the archery classes she had just started taking, her disdain for the arithmetic lessons forced upon her. Izuku listened attentively, piping up every so often but more simply letting her talk. He wasn’t drawn back into the conversation properly until,

“So tell me about your friends in your village. What’s it called?”

“...Shizuoka,” Izuku said after a moment. That...wasn’t something he had to lie about, was it? “And as for my friends...well, I don’t have...I mean, t-there’s Kacchan. He-...we grew up together.”

Ochako looked displeased. “Your mother told me that if your friends found out you knew royals they would be jealous. They don’t sound much like friends.”

He shook his head hastily. “They’re not-...” He then sighed heavily. “Yuuei is no Endeavour but being quirkless is still...not the best thing to be. The children are m-mean and the parents...they have...pity. I would prefer not to give them one more reason to dislike me,” he added truthfully.

Ochako made a wounded noise, wrapping her arms around him. “Oh, Deku. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” he tried, though his voice broke a little.

That got him a kiss to the cheek. “And...I know you just told me the truth even though it was hard so...may I be mean and ask you to do it again?” Izuku stiffened, trying to pull away but being held in place. “The guards talk and I’ve heard rumours. The fires in Yuuei...why did you really run?”

Izuku froze. “O-ochako you-...No, I c-can’t tell you!”

“Deku.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “You promise me you won’t tell Shouto?”

Ochako pouted. “You’ve already said enough now that I’ve figured it out!” Izuku flushed. “It was...it’s true then. King Enji really...but why?

Izuku looked away, the taste in his mouth bitter. “He...he was looking for...he took the ch-children to find…”

“...to find All Might’s,” Ochako finished, face white with horror. “But it...Yuuei’s heir died! It died in childbirth! At least...that’s what is said here…?”

Izuku’s head cocked to the side. “I have...never heard that,” he admitted, and completely honestly for once. “If there is one, we have never been told of it.”

“You know I must tell Shouto when next I see him.”

“Ochako!”

“Don’t Ochako me,” she huffed, swatting his arm. “As much as we are friends, none of us are blind to the particular favour Prince Shouto shows you. If he finds out I had this information and did not pass it on, he would be furious. Plus, is it not his business to know how his father is running the kingdom?”

Izuku abruptly got to his feet. “It is more than that! He...You endanger Shouto. That...that scar on his face is no accident.”

Ochako gasped but Izuku ignored her, leaving the rocks behind. “I’m s-sorry,” he said, “But I think we have both said too much. I apologise for my rudeness.”

“Deku!” Ochako cried, racing after him and pulling him up. “Don’t. I should not have pried so the fault lies with me too. And how can I be mad at you for protecting your friend? And an Endeavan at that? No one would believe it.”

Izuku softened, bumping his forehead against hers. “I...Thank you Ochako.” He pulled her into his arms. “But still, it is late and you will be looked for soon. Speak to me again, when next we meet?”

Ochako kissed his nose. “Of course. I will always make time for my friends.”

 

***

 

A week later the Midoriyas were settled back in Shizuoka and things were as they should be once more. Inko had written to Toshinori, who had sent messengers with payment to Uravity to thank the king and queen for their hospitality. The other villagers had returned from where they had fled west and life had returned to how it was. Inko was back to teaching Izuku and Katsuki and the other children and the crops were slowly being replanted. It would be a sparse winter season but nothing they hadn’t endured before.

Speaking of winter, Izuku damn near squeaked when he was dumped into their wash tub. “Mama, it’s freezing!” he sulked, only pouting further when she paid no mind and started scrubbing his hair.

“You always say that,” Inko tutted. “You have to bear it Izuku.”

He whined, wincing when her fingers caught in one of his curls. “Mama, I can do it.”

“And yet every time you do it you manage to leave suds in your hair,” was the prim response.

Izuku had to admit that was true. With that in mind he let Inko continue with his hair while he started on his arms. The house was quiet from there, Inko occasionally humming to herself. And in that quiet, Izuku began to fill more and more guilty until,

“Mama...can I tell you something if you promise not to be mad?”

Inko’s hands paused and Izuku very resolutely didn’t turn around. “I can’t promise that,” she eventually replied. “But I’ll do my best.”

“A-alright…” he whispered, bottom lip trembling. “I...I told Kacchan...that-...about All Might, I-”

Izuku.”

He flinched, whipping around. “Mama, I’m sorry! I didn’t...I was just...mad and I wanted him to be nice and I-I thought…He didn’t believe me anyway,” he ended in a mumble.

“Dunk.” Izuku plunged his head under the water, coming up to his mother’s sigh and a towel wrapping around him as he stood. Inko secured the towel around his shoulders but she didn’t look angry just disappointed. In a lot of ways, that was worse. “You know that was dangerous Izuku.”

Izuku promptly looked away, eyes filling with tears.

Inko brushed them away but that was all. “I can’t say it’s alright Izuku because it isn’t. I know you’re sorry but you’ve put Katsuki in a terrible position. What if you had told him earlier? Before Endeavour had come and he had been captured?”

“He didn’t believe me!” Izuku pointed out.

“Yes, but the idea is in his head,” Inko countered. “Would it be unlike Katsuki to say something like, ‘I don’t know who All Might’s son is but Deku says it is him’?”

Izuku blanched.

“What would Endeavour have done then? Even if they hadn’t believed Katsuki as he hadn’t believed you, they would still have come looking. Being quirkless will only disguise you so much,” she ended firmly.

“I...I…” Izuku didn’t have anything else to say, falling into his mother’s arms and sobbing.

“I know you’re sorry,” Inko repeated, “And, truthfully, I am too. This burden is too much for just a boy. You shouldn’t have to think these things.”

“But you love Papa,” Izuku argued wetly. “And I-...I can be p-prince if it means Mama gets to be happy.”

It was Inko’s turn to cry, bundling him close and peppering his face with kisses until he was breathless from laughing. She hefted him into her arms, climbing the stairs and setting him down to go and find clothes. Once changed and tucked under the blankets, Inko combed his hair off his face, styling it gently.

“Now, tell me of the capital and the Sports Festival. I’m sure there is much you want to say.”

Izuku brightened and launched in without hesitation. Yes, yes he had a lot to say and she would hear it all.

...well, except the part about Hitoshi.

 

***

 

Strolling through the palace gardens, Toshinori allowed the serenity of it all to wash over him. It had been quite a while since he’d gone outdoors simply to enjoy it. There were whispers of Ingenium making back-door deals with Endeavour and rumours that something was amiss in Riot. Toshinori didn’t begrudge his spy network for finding these sorts of things out - it was their job after all - but sometimes he wished he could remain ignorant. He must have let out a sigh because Tsukauchi was suddenly speaking up from his side.

“Sire, if you’ll let me make a request?”

Toshinori clapped his shoulder. “Tsukauchi, you’re my oldest friend. You can request anything at this point.”

His manservant gave him a dubious look. “In that case, I request you take some time for yourself.” Toshinori blinked but he continued on. “You know King Enji often goes on hunting trips, King Ishiyama has a sanctuary deep within the mountains. You have not left your duties for more than ten years now. Surely it’s time?”

Toshinori chuckled. “So keen to get rid of me? Although, I see your point. It is just-”

“You worry,” Tsukauchi said. “Toshinori, you always worry. And you have left before for summits and royal visits and Yuuei has not fallen yet. Rest yourself in order to serve us better.”

He frowned. “I...Yuuei has always come first and I would never dare given less than my all but...yes, I can also see the toll the years have taken on me.” He then paused mid-step. “If I were to take a month, perhaps to the manor up north, would you-”

Tsukauchi had to smother a laugh. “I will write to the Midoriyas immediately sire.”

Toshinori spluttered. “I-...Ah, you know me too well. Yes, do. It has been two summers too long.”

 

***

 

Pushing open the door, which squeaked awfully, Izuku took in the entrance hall with wide eyes. Laying his belongings on the nearest table, he went to run off only to be called back by his mother. She sent him a scolding look and he came to a half sheepishly. Still, it wasn’t enough to stop him bouncing on his toes. This was, after all, the first time he would ever be spending time with his father and his mother, just the three of them, as though they were a real family.

“Where do you get such energy?” Inko asked, half-baffled, half-irritated. “If I had even half of it.”

Izuku grinned cheekily, taking her hands in his and tugging lightly. “Let’s air the rooms out! Papa will be here soon.”

“He will be here when he can,” Inko corrected but followed Izuku nonetheless. The manor belonging to the royal family was nowhere near as large as the castle but it was far bigger than their meagre cottage. There were windows to open and coverings to pull off furnishings. Food had to be purchased from the village across the bridge and the floors had to be given a good scrub. By the time the manor looked presentable enough, Izuku was worn out, barely having the energy left to draw a bath. Inko ruffled his hair though and kissed his temple. “Thank you Izuku.”

Izuku beamed only to hear the unmistakable sounds of hooves on gravel. Tearing from the room, he made for the nearest window, half-throwing himself out. “Papa!”

Toshinori jumped before looking up and spotting him, waving jovially. “Well met Izuku!”

Izuku left the window in favour of the front door, Inko already there and holding Toshinori’s horse steady as he dismounted. Then they were both drawn into hugs, Toshinori holding them warmly. “I see you are both well.”

They nodded and Izuku took it upon himself to take the reins of the palace stallion when Toshinori went to head inside. His father then balked, eyes wide. “Oh, I...Izuku, that wasn’t-...I…”

“We don’t have servants here Toshinori,” Inko teased lightly.

“Ah, then let me help!” he said quickly, though Izuku ducked away from his hand.

“Papa, do you even know how to brush down a horse?” The way he went red was answer enough. Izuku laughed, taking his hand. “Come then, I can show you.”

It was interesting to say the least, having to teach Toshinori all the things he had known from childhood. How to care for the horses, how to ensure their shoes had no stones, how to prepare vegetables and broth. Watching him suffer in a cold bath had been particularly funny to Izuku, though Inko had swatted him over the head and ordered him to ‘be nice’. Sitting at the table with their supper of soup, Izuku was the only one who seemed unbothered, both his parents looking uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry it’s not what you’re used to,” Inko muttered, shame-faced.

“No, no!” Toshinori said, hands flailing. “I think...I think it’s time I experienced what life is like outside the palace. It’s apparent to me that in even some simple areas, I am quite blind. I’m eager to learn.”

Izuku grinned, feet swinging back and forth gaily. “Papa, did you see Kacchan win the Sports Festival again? That’s thrice now!”

“Is it?” Toshinori questioned, receiving a firm nod. “That’s quite impressive Izuku. He must have excellent control of his quirk and reflexes.” He then let his eyes rake over Izuku’s frame. “And you, you have not long reached ten years of age.”

“Mmhmm,” Izuku replied around a spoonful of food.

Inko cringed at the pained look that briefly flashed over Toshinori’s face. She laid her hand on his. “You were then when you could be.”

“Was I though? I could have visited more Inko, you know that.”

“Visited more and what? Put him in more danger?” she sniffed. “We...we both understood the arrangement. We both did our best to bear it.”

“And yet it was I who missed so much of his life,” Toshinori pointed out. “I should have been there too, to see him grow. I think I did him a great disservice.”

Something crossed Inko’s face and Toshinori wasn’t sure he liked it. Across the table, Izuku was watching them with wide eyes. “Come, let’s not fight in front of your son,” Inko said, a harshness there that made Toshinori flinch.

The rest of the meal continued in silence, Inko excusing herself when done. Toshinori made to follow but Izuku pulled him back. He raised an eyebrow but Izuku just shrugged, collecting their plates and taking them to the wash basin. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked as Izuku started washing, handing him a towel so he could dry.

“I think…” Izuku said after a long moment, brow furrowed. “You made her sad.”

“Sad?” Toshinori repeated.

Izuku nodded. “Because...y-you said you wanted to see me. You never said you wanted to see Mama a-and...she loved you first.”

Toshinori then said something he probably shouldn’t have in front of Izuku, the boy giggling shyly. Because, yes, he was right. How did a ten-year-old have more wisdom than he did? He stood there brooding until Izuku scowled up at him, hands on his hips.

“I’m not going to say sorry for you,” he said in a tone that indicated he’d heard the words many a time. “You...you have to say sorry yourself. A-and take flowers. There are nice ones on the grounds. Mama likes yellow.”

Toshinori scooped him up, relief sinking into his bones. “What would I do without you my boy?”

 

***

 

The next few days went much better; which wasn’t hard, given their dismal first day. They spent the mornings relaxing and staying in bed and the afternoons were filled with picnics and strolls through the woods. Inko would take trips into town - Toshinori couldn’t go for fear of being recognised, even in his weakened form - and Toshinori would sit with Izuku and work him through his lessons. They would dine together and clean together, all in all creating the image of a family. Izuku, at ten, had his own bed - though he occasionally snuck into one parent’s or the other. The nights Inko and Toshinori would share were rarer still but they were there.

And then, of course, their peace was interrupted in the form of Tsukauchi arriving, looking terribly harried. He barely even had time to explain, pushing Izuku into the garden and having Inko follow him into the manor’s servant’s kitchen before two large horses rounded the gates. Their builds were far stockier than any horse Izuku had seen in Yuuei before and he was set to hide when he suddenly recognised the second rider:

Eijirou.

Not two seconds later Toshinori was stepping out greet, who Izuku now recognised as, King Ishiyama and Eijirou. Tsukauchi was on his heels, bowing respectfully and offering to take their horses. Izuku darted around to the stables, meeting the manservant there and starting to ration out hay.

“Why is King Ishiyama here?” he asked.

Tsukauchi glanced around before shaking his head. “I don’t know Izuku. I only received word they were coming and had been redirected here. I barely had time to intercept and make your situation less suspicious.”

Izuku nodded, rubbing down one horse as best he could, given its size, before returning to the gardens. He stopped upon finding Eijirou sitting under one of the trees, looking lost. Obviously his father had done to him what Tsukauchi had done to Izuku not so long ago. Creeping forward, Izuku sat himself down as close as he dared. “E-Eijirou?”

His friend spun around, eyes widening. “Deku? How are you-...” He then shook his head, reaching out and crushing him against his chest. “Deku!”

Izuku returned the hug, hands fisting tighter when he felt Eijirou begin to tremble. “Eijirou? What’s happened?”

The prince hid his face in Izuku’s neck. “My...Mum, she-...”

Izuku’s stomach dropped. “Oh, Eijirou. I-...I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you,” he managed. “But we...we knew this day would come.”

“That does not make it any easier.”

Eijirou lifted his head. “No, it does not. Thank you Deku.”

He smiled, thumbing Eijirou’s tears away. “If you wish to cry, you may. You know I do it often enough.”

Eijirou chuckled wetly...and then the tears were back. Izuku drew him in, rubbing his back comfortingly. They stayed there until the sun went down and Inko called them in for supper. Riot was in mourning and, at the centre of it all, Ishiyama and Eijirou were too.

 

***

 

The Riotian royals stayed near one week, Inko and Tsukauchi playing their roles as servants perfectly while Izuku kept Eijirou entertained. Even now they were in the garden, Izuku teaching Eijirou what Toshinori recognised as a Yuueian folk dance. They were laughing as they twirled and skipped and ducked under each other’s arms. Toshinori watched them with a smile, Ishiyama copying, as they took a turn around the yard.

“That boy’s mother,” Ishiyama started. “She is a servant of yours, is she not?”

Toshinori startled but nodded. “Yes, her name is Inko. I have known her some thirteen years now.”

Ishiyama looked thoughtful, eyes tracing Izuku. “I take it, as I have never seen his father, that she is a widow?” Another nod and then Toshinori felt apprehension as Ishiyama grinned wolfishly. “All Might do you, in fact, have feelings towards her?”

Toshinori choked on his inhale, Ishiyama laughing and pounding him on the back as he hacked. “Do not say such things!”

“Oh come now,” Ishiyama said. “You are not Enji and I know status does not bother you. To not ask would be a waste.”

“It is highly inappropriate!” Toshinori spluttered. “She is a member of my staff! It would...why, it would come across very pressuring. A-and do not forget her son!”

Ishiyama made a noise there, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Ah, that is an aspect I had not thought of. Although, that you could think of it so quickly…” He shook his head. “No, I see. A marriage there would lead to Deku becoming the crown prince of Yuuei. I admire the boy but-”

No,” Toshinori said, voice like iron. “Deku will not become my successor.”

The Riotian king almost looked taken aback until, “Of course, his quirklessness. While it is not right to judge a person’s character on that factor alone, to rule a kingdom is something else. A kingdom needs a strong leader. Without a quirk, that boy is not it.”

It took every inch of Toshinori’s self-control to keep his face neutral there but he had to because this was what he wanted. He wanted Izuku to slip through unnoticed, to be cast aside. The more he was overlooked, the more he could hide in plain sight. Izuku chose that moment to squeal, which turned out to be because Eijirou had splashed him with water. They ended up wrestling until Eijirou pinned Izuku to the ground, both of them laughing breathlessly.

“He is a good child,” Ishiyama admitted. “Just…”

“Just a shame about his quirk,” Toshinori finished for him.

“...yes.”

 

***

 

“I believe, that with this, I have won.”

Toshinori looked down at the board in disbelief. On the other side, Izuku was looking a little too proud, cheeks flushed with adrenaline. The king looked down at the board once more, throwing his hands up in the air when he conceded that Izuku had his fox completely surrounded. “Well played my boy. Perhaps your mother will play you a second round?”

“Not me,” Inko said, barely looking up from her knitting. “Izuku has beaten me at that too many times to count. Whether he plays as fox or geese, I always seem to lose.”

“I don’t mean to!” Izuku cried, Inko finally looking up and pinching his cheek lightly.

“Izuku, you’re allowed to win! - that was hardly what I meant.”

“This game requires much strategy, I’m impressed you play so well. You must have a sharp mind,” Toshinori praised, sharing a smile with Inko when Izuku hid in his hands, ears burning. Toshinori leant over the board to ruffle his hair. “Now come, the hour is late and we have early starts in the morning. To bed with you.”

Izuku quickly turned to look at Inko but immediately shrunk down at her expression. “Off you go Izuku.”

He nodded, climbing to his feet and dusting his pants off. Sparing them both a kiss to the cheek, Izuku made it as far as the doorway before hesitating. “Papa? Will you...will you read me one last story?”

Toshinori’s heart broke in two, nearly tripping in his haste to get to his feet. He slipped his hand into Izuku’s and walked him to his room, ushering the boy into bed before tucking the covers up to his chin. He then moved to the shelves, finding a book filled with children’s tales and taking a seat by his side. Toshinori thumbed to the contents page, holding it out to Izuku. “Which one would you like, my boy?”

He perused the titles carefully before choosing one, settling deeper into his pillow. With one hand turning the pages, Toshinori’s other hand was rubbing Izuku’s arm soothingly. He wasn’t even half way through before the boy fell asleep, breaths soft and even. With a shaking smile, Toshinori kissed Izuku’s forehead, setting the book on the end table and blowing out the candle. Straightening, Toshinori jumped slightly at finding Inko in the doorway. Her smile was just as sad as his though there was happiness in her eyes too.

“He’s lucky to have you,” she whispered.

Toshinori shook his head, bending down to capture her lips. “I am the one who is lucky. To have such a child and also such a wife.” He kissed her once more. “There is no one in the kingdom who would compare.”

Inko blushed, though she didn’t protest when Toshinori led her to his chambers. She eyed him up a long moment before letting her fingers shift to the ties of his shirt. “Take care Toshinori, I am not so willing for Izuku to have a sibling.”

Toshinori’s mind went blank. It then restarted all at once. Gods have mercy.

 

***

 

Three months, then four, and Toshinori finally let himself relax, knowing there was no second heir soon to join the first. In fact, he received few messages for many seasons - none outside the usual, that is. And when he did receive a letter it was delivered by none other than a black eagle, its chest a valiant red. Toshinori took the letter with trepidation. Unfurling it, its contents were not much better.



Concerning All Might, King of Yuuei

Your presence is required at the Kings’ Summit some two months hence on the eve of harvest season. May your visit be fruitful.

The Flame King



A Kings’ Summit, in Endeavour. Toshinori scowled. Perfect.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Toshinori hesitated before knocking on the door. The hour was late and, by all accounts, everyone within should have been asleep. But the door was opened, Inko cautiously poking her head out before seeing it was him. She waved Toshinori in and closed the door behind her, locking it in case someone burst in unannounced. Behind her, buried under his blanket, was Izuku. The boy was still fast asleep, his clothes for tomorrow laid out on the chest at the end of his bed. Those clothes - and what they represented - were why Toshinori was here in the first place.

“I…” His words failed, swallowing thickly.

Inko sighed, taking his hand and leading him to the hearth. The fire, he saw, was still lit; a sure sign that Inko had yet to turn in despite the hour. “You do not want Izuku to go to Endeavour anymore.”

Toshinori’s gaze dropped. “It...My initial thought was to bring him as he has been before. However the more I think on it the more afraid I am. I realise I have brought you a long way for nothing but it is-”

“I should like Izuku to go.”

The sharpness was like a slap, Toshinori’s eyes widening.

“I’m sorry Toshinori,” Inko said firmly, folding her hands. “But I would. Not for his sake because gods know I know he is safer here...But he is twelve years of age now. He needs this. He needs to experience politics and h-hatred and to know fear. It is one thing to be scared of a childhood bully, another entirely to have a...a king breathing down your neck. Not everyone he meets will be as friendly as Eijirou and Ochako have turned out to be.”

“I understand,” Toshinori said reluctantly. “But twelve? Surely this can wait until the next summit? Until he is seventeen?”

“And then you will say until he is two and twenty. He is not the five-year-old you met all those years ago. And also…” Inko’s voice softened. “I think perhaps not for him, but for Shouto. I’m sure the years have not been kind to him. N-not with his father.”

Toshinori could only agree though he daren’t say it out loud. Instead he nodded, leaning back in his chair. “I cannot imagine Shouto has been shown anywhere near the amount of kindness you have shown Izuku. Our son is very fortunate.”

Inko’s cheeks turned pink. “Hush you. I am fortunate in that he makes it so easy to do so.”

Toshinori gave a short huff of amusement, getting to his feet and tilting Inko’s head up to kiss her gently. “A trait, you’ll find, he gets from you. Our caravan leaves at first light. Rest, rest now while you can.”

Inko frowned in displeasure before eventually nodding. There were sounds of the fire being put out as Toshinori left the room. He supposed, with that taken care of, it was also time for him to sleep.

 

***

 

The journey to Endeavour’s capital was easier than the one to Riot’s had been five years earlier. For one, Endeavour’s boundaries were closer and secondly, the terrain was much smoother. That didn’t mean the journey was pleasant. No one in the Yuueian party seemed particularly thrilled at the summit’s location but there was little they could do. Endeavour was a kingdom as much as any of the others and that it fell to being their turn was a simple eventuality.

Upon arrival they were met with a clinical coldness. Ingenium arrived at the same time though and were greeted with the same amount of civility and nothing else so at least it wasn't personal. The servants were all but banished from sight, only the royals and their personal assistants being left in the courtyard. Toshinori didn’t mind, not when it meant Izuku could slip out of sight before King Enji arrived. He was certain, should he be spotted, that things would not go well for Izuku. Which was why he and Inko had implemented stricter rules for Izuku to follow and put more restrictions in place.

Being taken through to the meeting hall, Toshinori allowed himself a smile at seeing all the other royals and their families seated. A veritable feast was spread out before them, servants waiting on them hand and foot. It also didn’t escape his notice the way Eijirou pouted a little when he entered alone. It was Ochako who breached the subject though.

“May I ask, All Might, if Deku is amongst your party as he was last time?”

When Toshinori nodded, he could feel Enji’s gaze on him. Although, now it was laced with suspicion more than anger and he’d known that would be the case. He just had to hope he could lie well enough. “He is. His mother has recently joined my household full time. He works now too, though I admit he does very little and very ill. His...attempts are there.”

Ochako and Eijirou looked like they were going to glare holes in him but their parents seemed satisfied. Shouto, closest to Endeavour, stared back at him indifferently. His demeanour was much colder than Toshinori remembered.

“He won’t be in our service?” Eijirou asked before swivelling around to face Enji, far more confident than Toshinori would ever be. “Is there an escort you have prepared, Flame King?”

“You have each other,” Enji scoffed, loosely gesturing in Shouto’s direction. “If Shouto’s company is lacking, inform me immediately and I will act upon it.”

The way Shouto’s shoulders stiffened confirmed Toshinori’s suspicions about exactly how Enji would “act upon it”.

“I’d like to request his presence regardless,” Tenya said, taking everyone aback. “I have heard much of Yuuei’s Sports Festivals and if Deku lives in the capital, he has surely been privy to one.” Tenya turned to Toshinori, nodding several times. “Deku, I believe due to his quirklessness, is very interested in quirks. I’m sure he will have much he can tell me!”

“I too am interested,” Shouto said, Enji nodding a little too quickly.

Toshinori pasted on a smile; reconnaissance, of course. “Then inform me of a time and I shall have Deku pardoned of his duties whilst in your company. After all, there will be plenty of hours after you have retired in which he can complete his chores.”

Enji finally looked satisfied, apparently soothed by the way Izuku was being given the treatment of a lowly servant. Eijirou looked a little confused but didn’t say anything, just sent an odd look to his father who gave away no clues.

From there, the meal continued on as it should. News was passed around, some embellished, some played down. The usual act of everyone was doing fine and that they were prospering. It wasn’t so hard for Toshinori to go along with that. Yuuei was doing well. They weren’t prospering per se but there was no one going without.

They were dismissed for the afternoon to give the Endeavans time to prepare for the actual welcoming meal that night. Crossing the courtyard, Toshinori caught sight of Izuku returning from the markets with Inko, arms full of vegetable crates. Seeing them, Izuku bowed deeply, shyly nodding when Eijirou and Ochako smiled at him. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Toshinori saw Izuku sneak the tiniest wave to Shouto. And if he wasn’t mistaken, Shouto’s stoic faced wavered ever so slightly. Good, good.

 

***

 

After the opening feast, the servants from all five kingdoms were busy washing dishes, scrubbing floors, and passing leftovers amongst themselves. Izuku had found a few Endeavan children amongst the servants ranks and took them under his wing, keeping them out of the way and entertaining them. Finally, past midnight, they were done and the long trek back to their quarters was made. Izuku barely managed to change before falling into bed, Inko smoothing down his hair on her way passed. Izuku was almost asleep when a knock came at the door. He groaned, his mother tutting at him before going to greet whoever it is.

“...Deku, I think it’s for you.”

Izuku wearily lifted his head, though it snapped up when he saw the flash of red hair.

Eijirou!” he whisper-shouted, bolting across the room and letting his friend whisk him up. “What are you doing here? It’s so late!”

Eijirou simply laughed, peering around him to meet his mother’s eyes. “I will be borrowing Deku.” It wasn’t an order but it wasn’t a question either, more like a fact.

Inko just smiled though. “He isn’t needed until noon tomorrow.”

Eijirou beamed. He looped his arm through Izuku’s and led him down the hall. Two walkways, a set of stairs, and another two turns and then they were entering a room Izuku could only assume was Eijirou’s provided chambers. Thick Riotian blankets woven in a deep red covered the bed and the chairs and wardrobes had been left haphazardly open to reveal the clothes within. But what caught Izuku’s attention most of all was the two figures sitting on Eijirou’s bed, features hidden by the bed’s curtains.

Hearing the door shut, one figure leaned out before waving him over. “Deku!” Ochako cheered softly, hugging him when he was close enough. “Eijirou said he might try to steal you.”

“It is hardly stealing when one is a prince and one a commoner,” Izuku replied, toeing off his shoes and joining her on the bed, bowing his head at Tenya. “I...I wouldn’t have thought-”

“Ochako made her intentions clear!” Tenya said swiftly, expression stern. “I am here to preserve both her and Eijirou’s innocence and their reputations in the event that-”

“Y-you don’t trust them?” Izuku asked, the perfect image of naive.

Tenya’s mouth opened and shut several times before coughing awkwardly. Ochako laughed, shifting over when Eijirou came to join them once more. “We wanted to see how you were,” she explained. “But All Might seemed very determined not to.”

Izuku frowned. “I’m sure he didn’t. It’s-...It is harder to play friends now than once before. Our statuses are making us further apart. N-none of you need playmates anymore.”

“That is true,” Tenya agreed. “But I will admit that even I was hoping to see you here. You have a sense of liveliness that is, quite honestly, refreshing.”

Izuku blinked in surprise before smiling, cheeks warming ever so slightly. “I...am glad. We have not had the chance to speak much.”

“Indeed not! I believe I have heard more about you than I have seen you. Eijirou and Shouto, who I see most, continue to-”

There were footsteps outside and everyone stopped talking, Eijirou quickly leaning over Izuku to blow out the candle. The room fell into inky darkness and Izuku let Eijirou tuck him against his side, arm hardening around him. The door to Eijirou’s chambers were pushed open, footsteps pausing as the owner clearly took in the darkness. There was then a sigh.

“Eijirou, I am hardly stupid.”

The Riotian prince barely even had time to relight the candle before Izuku was sprinting across the room, only to skid to an abrupt halt, uncertain. Then Shouto cautiously opened his arms and Izuku was in them, hands fisting in the back of his vest and nose buried in his neck. “Shouto,” he breathed.

“I see you have only softened with age,” the prince chided lightly.

Izuku pulled away enough to pout at him. “I s-spar! I...I may not be on your level but I-...I know a move or two. I’m plenty tough enough!”

Shouto’s lip quirked slightly upwards, sending as exasperated look at the other heirs. “How is it I knew you would all be here? And up to something like this?” “This” was obviously Izuku, by the way Shouto shook him playfully.

“Because we missed him,” Ochako whined, holding out her hands as if Izuku was some toy to be passed around.

Shouto, much to Izuku’s surprise, only held him tighter, lips thinning when Ochako came closer. “You shouldn’t,” he said coldly. “It is not our job to miss servants. Of a different kingdom,” he added.

Eijirou snorted. “I’d believe you if you looked in any way inclined to let Deku go.”

That made Shouto flush, jumping away from Izuku as if burned. Izuku made a pitiful sound, Shouto compromising and letting their fingers interlace. “Be n-nice Eijirou,” Izuku grumbled. “I have not seen Shouto in five years.”

Eijirou relented, inviting them all to relax on his bed. They did so, Tenya sitting stiffly while the others reclined comfortably. Izuku was kept at Shouto’s side, the Endeavan prince keeping a jealous hold on him but also making small talk with him. They talked about life in Yuuei, how his mother was, how much he had grown. Izuku returned in kind though he was often met with nothing but a wall, Shouto dismissing the questions or answering in a way that held no real reply. To be honest, it was slightly frustrating.

Izuku was almost a little relieved when Eijirou poked him with a foot before dragging him over forcibly. Izuku bit back a squeak while Shouto scowled. Eijirou screwed his face up in return. “I’ll return him to you,” he scoffed before addressing Izuku. “My father’s servants were talking before of a Yuueian boy who can make creatures out of shadows. Is that you?”

Izuku frowned at him from his position upside down. “You...do you mean shadow puppets?”

“Shadow puppets?” Eijirou echoed.

Izuku’s mouth dropped open, rolling over so he could look at Eijirou properly. “Are you telling me you have never made shadow puppets?” He then looked at every prince and princess and found the same confused look. “None of you?”

When those blank expressions merely stayed, Izuku kneaded his forehead in frustration. If he had been born a royal, he surely would have gone mad from boredom alone...well, he had been born a royal but if he’d had to live in the palace. Asking them to wait, Izuku reached through the drapes and picked up the candle Eijirou had set on the bedside table. Balancing it precariously on the pillows, Izuku raised his hands. That, of course, was when he shifted just so and the candle fell. There was mad scrambling and then a layer of ice shot over the blankets, extinguishing the fire and dousing the room in darkness.

“S-sorry!” Izuku stammered, hands twisting together fretfully. “I didn’t...I mean…”

“Hush Deku, it’s fine,” Ochako assured from somewhere across from him. “It was an accident.”

“Shouto stopped it before any real damage was done,” Eijirou agreed.

“Still…” Izuku drooped down, bottom lip pulled between his teeth. He then gasped when a light suddenly appeared to his right. A small flame lay flickering in Shouto’s hand, his face unreadable. Izuku quickly shook his head, scrambling over and trying to smother the flame. “Sh-shouto that’s...you don’t have to…”

“It’s alright,” Shouto murmured, lips brushing against his ear. “I will not battle with my left but this is hardly a battle.”

“I do not wish to make you uncomfortable,” Izuku whispered, fingers still curled around Shouto’s wrist.

“I am not. And if I am, I will stop.”

There was a beat and then Izuku nodded, shifting back onto his heels. Shouto allowed the flame to grow larger until it provided sufficient light. Izuku took that as his cue, twisting his fingers together until they formed a shadow that looked like the snout of a dragon, teeth bared and all. Eijirou leapt forward at that, demanding he be taught too. Izuku obliged, waiting until he had gotten the hang of it before moving onto other animals. There were dogs and squirrels, moose and rabbits, and even a shadow that made the likeness of a person.

Eventually however, the hour became too late and they started to drift off. Ochako and Tenya took their leave, disappearing in the direction opposite from the way Izuku had come. Bidding farewell, Izuku was led from the room by Shouto. They didn’t speak as they walked, shoulders occasionally bumping but nothing more. Shouto left him at his door, hesitating. Izuku took it upon himself to step forward, pressing their foreheads together before touching noses. “It is good to see you again.”

“Ah. I-...We will seek you out again.” Shouto made to leave before abruptly turning around, yanking Izuku close and voice so, so low. “I know what my father has done to your country. Be careful with whom you pass information onto. If you are seen, you will be killed. Father does not welcome your kind here. My reach only goes so far.”

Shouto truly did leave then. The bone-chilling fear he had left behind though...that never went away.

 

***

 

Near one week had passed since their arrival in Endeavour. Izuku was doing a wonderful job of playing the meek servant and, as far as Toshinori knew, King Enji didn’t know Shouto had met with him a handful of times. The secrecy was sure to get them into more trouble in the end and while Toshinori really didn’t want Shouto to be defiant...Enji had no one to blame but himself. Shouto craved the sort of love and contact Izuku gave. The other kings and queens showed no concerns; they simply looked at him the way one might a tapestry - briefly and with little attention.

That didn’t mean the summit was going well though. Not be a long shot. They’d been reworking elements of their peace treaties when Enji had had to blow it all to pieces. And he did so brilliantly.

“I’m considering lessening dealings with Yuuei.”

Silence swept the table. Toshinori’s trademark smile swapped to a deep frown. “And why is that, Enji?”

Enji met his gaze evenly. “I’m losing faith in your ability to rule. To ally with you would be a sign of weakness.”

“Nonsense!” Toshinori boomed. “Yuuei is doing fine. Your concerns, I feel, are misplaced.”

“They are not.” Enji’s voice gave no room for argument. “I cannot allow my kingdom to make deals with one whose future is so unsteady. Tell me, All Might, if you were to drop dead tomorrow...who would rule Yuuei?”

Silence prevailed once more.

Toshinori swore internally. What a magnificent card to play. He couldn’t say Izuku without revealing his hand and this was not the place to do that. To expose Izuku now would give entirely the wrong impression: “All Might has had his son spy on us. He has betrayed our trust.” That was the problem with playing the long game, the game became too long and the trust shattered but to lie and say he had no one...Yes, that showed a great weakness in Yuuei.

“It’s true,” he said, head bowing. “I have no biological heir. However, the ruling line is established, at least for now. Sorahiko, my mother’s personal advisor, would take the throne.” It wasn’t a lie - it had been the agreement before Izuku had survived infancy. “But that also does not mean I am not looking for a suitable heir. I have several candidates in mind.”

Seiten and Himawari of Uravity looked satisfied. Kaito and Miho of Ingenium did not. “And when will we meet these candidates?” Kaito asked sharply. “Tensei cannot make allegiances with those he doesn’t know.”

“When I have found one suitable, I shall introduce them to all of you,” Toshinori assured, though it seemed to help little.

“We are, of course, also forgetting Yuuei’s biggest failing,” Enji cut. “Stain.”

Toshinori paused, Ishiyama stepping in this time. “That is pure accusation without proof!” he cried. “No one has even seen this ‘Stain’ character or if they have, they have not lived to tell of it. You cannot blame Yuuei for the killings of a mad man.”

Your people may not have seen him,” Enji countered. “I have had many witnesses come to me. There are discrepancies between accounts but the only common factor is that the man appears Yuueian.”

“There have been killings in Yuuei, Enji,” Toshinori spat. “My people are in as much danger as yours. Also,” he added, voice picking up a menacing tone he used very rarely. “How convenient of you that the only witnesses are Endeavan.”

Enji’s flames spread for a moment, hands slamming on the table. “Are you accusing me of trickery, Toshinori?”

He spread his hands. “I’m merely saying it’s convenient.”

The other rules were glancing between them as if they were an extremely intense ball game. Ishiyama was the one who finally stepped in, putting a hand between both of them. “I think that is this session adjourned. Let’s continue this tomorrow.”

Toshinori nodded concisely, sweeping to his feet. He shot one last look at Enji and got a dark, dark scowl in return. This wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

 

***

 

It wasn’t that hard to be a decent person, not in Izuku’s experience. Be nice to someone and they were likely to be nice back. Showing kindness never hurt anyone. Not in his experience anyway.

Izuku wondered if this belief was shared in Endeavour though. In his time in the palace, he had offered to mind servant’s children and had been met with near tears of relief. He had stopped to help a handmaiden when she’d dropped her laundry and she’d hugged him for near ten minutes. Every morning on his way to the kitchens to collect his father’s breakfast, Izuku would detour past the gardens and pick flowers to leave behind in place of the tray. He also wasn’t blind to the extra pastries that soon began being added to the plate and tucked aside just for him.

Entering the kitchen that morning, Izuku wasn’t surprised to find only the cook there. He made to sneak past her as he always did when he was suddenly grasped by the collar, all but ripped off his feet. He went to yell but cook’s hand covered his mouth. It was then that Izuku saw she was near tears. He frowned, trying to pry her hand off but she only shook her head firmly. There was murmuring from outside and he was suddenly dragged to the fireplace.

“Up!” she hissed. “There is a ledge you can reach. Climb there and stay there.”

“But I-”

Now!

Izuku flinched, skittering away but...the look on her face. The doorknob across the room rattled and that was it, Izuku jumping into the hearth and peering up the chimney. The ledge in question was not hard to reach, not with the help of the racks used to hanging meet. Swinging up, Izuku found just enough room for him to sit if he tucked himself up tight, which he did.

And then the hearth below was lit.

Izuku scrambled back, about to scream when-

“The Yuueian servant boy, where is he?”

“He has not yet done his rounds this morning. Did you require him?” Cook asked.

Whoever was below scoffed. “We’ve been ordered to make him well acquainted with the garden well. Children. They slip and have accidents so easily, don’t they?”

Izuku’s blood went cold.

“He is rather clumsy,” came the reply. “However, as I said, he has yet to arrive. Should I send him a particular way?”

“No, we know his usual route. We’ll catch him soon enough.”

Izuku could only assume the cook had nodded as the footsteps left. That didn’t mean it was safe though, not when the other Endeavan servants started turning up for kitchen duties and Izuku realised, he was stuck. Possibly all day. He could not count on everyone covering for him. That even the cook alone was doing it was bad enough. To put everyone in danger? No, it wouldn’t be right.

Instead, he curled himself further back in the nook, pulling his collar over his mouth and nose. There was little smoke for now but there would come a time when it was too much. He could only hope it was safe by then.

The morning hustle and bustle came and went. He heard a Yuueian servant enquire about him only to be met with confusion. Some time later his mother arrived, sounding panicked. Izuku didn’t blame her - couldn’t, give his current situation. He wanted to say he was fine but there was no way to do so. She was turned away with little success and Izuku felt tears slip down his cheeks when he heard her sob. It wasn’t fair!

The midday meal came and went and not long after that his mother was back, borderline distraught. “Please, has anyone seen my son? To be gone this long is not like him at all!”

“He wasn’t here before and he isn’t here now,” Cook sniffed out. “Now would you-...Oi, who picked out this meat? It’s off!”

There was scampering and apologies as the other kitchen staff took off. Izuku heard what sounded like stilted footsteps and then-

“They will be back shortly. We haven’t much time.” A wet blanket was suddenly tossed over the hearth, smothering the flames. “Now boy!”

Izuku jumped down, narrowly avoiding the embers and throwing himself into Inko’s arms. His mother looked downright murderous until the cook spoke.

“Keep him by your side and never leave him alone again. They were to drown him this morning.”

Inko went deathly pale, hands shaking as they gripped his shoulders. “You...you hid him for me?”

A nod. “Take the Endeavan route back to your chambers. Out the door, turn left and through the stairs in the furthermost door. They will not expect you to go that way.”

Inko let go of Izuku long enough to hug the chef. “Thank you so much. I know the risk you took. Thank you for saving my son. We are, both of us, indebted to you.”

The cook smiled sadly, thumbing Izuku’s cheek. “I have a daughter near his age. Your grief would have been too much. Plus, the boy’s done nothing wrong, only done everything right. Now go, make haste!”

His mother nodded, clasping Izuku’s hand tightly. They damn near sprinted back to the wing assigned to the Yuueian guests. Izuku frowned when they passed their own quarters though, going to-...Oh, of course. Stepping in and briskly locking the door, Izuku wasn’t surprised for his father to nearly fall out of the chair he was currently sitting in. “Did you find-...Izuku.”

Izuku found himself swept up into another pair of arms, Toshinori kneeling in front of him and cradling his head. “My boy, you had me so worried. Where on earth did you go?”

“He went into hiding inside a chimney. After...after Enji had his men try to drown him.”

Toshinori went ramrod straight, Tsukauchi making an aborted sound of alarm. “He couldn’t! How could he-”

“They were to throw me in the well,” Izuku hiccoughed, Tsukauchi inhaling sharply. “I...I am clumsy enough to...to…”

“To make it appear an accident,” Toshinori finished, voice little more than a growl. “I have half a mind to march down and punch that man myself.”

Izuku admired the sentiment and he wanted to too but, “It wouldn’t do to do that. I am simply a quirkless servant. By his own laws, I should be dead.”

“That law is not public knowledge,” Toshinori snapped. “He cannot pass it with so many witnesses around nor can he execute a Yuueian on his land!”

“Sire, please,” Tsukauchi said, laying a hand on his shoulder.

“He tried to murder my son!” Toshinori roared, Izuku squeaking in fright and curling in closer. Toshinori hastily apologised, shushing him and rubbing his back.

“Begging your pardon sire, but he tried to murder a servant,” Tsukauchi said levelly. “And set it up as an accident. Even if he had succeeded, you would have had no proof. Plus, to wage war over a servant? King Enji would offer to replace Izuku in a heartbeat and you would have no choice but to accept.” He crouched down too, sending Toshinori a solemn look. “If you wished to wage war over this, you would have to reveal Izuku’s identity first.”

“No, that would only make things worse,” Toshinori agreed, anger deflating. “And, of course, Enji could still claim it was an accident and how was he to know the boy was a prince? We would lose either way.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku mumbled, breath hitching. “If I...if I had a quirk…”

No.” Toshinori’s voice was iron hard. “You have a quirk, it has just not been passed on yet. And, unfortunately, I believe this whole encounter was my fault. I angered Enji yesterday. It is I who should be apologising.”

“Enji would have him killed regardless,” Inko pointed out shakily, prying Izuku off Toshinori and bringing him back into her own embrace. “But this has served to shown us how serious he is. Izuku will remain at my side from now on and will not be left unattended at any stage.” She grimaced at the soot in his hair and on his clothes. “We will head to the baths now. And Toshinori, you...change too. You are also covered with soot.”

Toshinori looked down and saw it was so. He gave them one last sad look. “Be safe.”

Izuku managed a smile for little over a second. “I-...I will.”

The shame of it was, no one believed him. Not even him.

 

***

 

From that day on, Izuku had managed to slip under the radar quite well. He’d taken to hiding out in his chambers which, admittedly, was rather boring but definitely a step up from being dead. The cook still sent him little treats and Izuku made his mother give her flowers in return. He did the odd errand at his mother’s side but they always made sure to avoid areas where Enji was. In fact, Izuku was quite convinced Enji thought he was dead until he was abruptly summoned by a Urati servant. His mother shadowed him as they made for the Great Hall, the three of them entering and bowing deeply.

“Oh good, Deku,” Ochako breathed, Izuku’s eyes flicking up just long enough to see Enji mask a look of pure fury. “I am in need of your assistance today.”

“M-me Your H-highness?” Izuku stammered.

“Yes, we want to explore the town!” Eijirou explained, smile bright and his father’s the same. “You’ve been into town; you can help us.”

“The capital is safe enough. You hardly need a guard,” Enji cut in.

“He’s hardly guard material,” Shouto stated flatly, Izuku flushing despite the truthfulness of it.

“He’s not to be a guard but a guide,” Ochako said in a way that implied King Enji was incredibly stupid for not realising that. Izuku fought very hard to keep a smirk down. “I have no doubt vendors will see our clothing or recognise our faces and assume we can pay more. Deku is familiar with the ways of commoners. He will ensure we are not made fools of.”

“That is a wonderful idea Ochako!” Tenya boomed.

“Also, it does well to have someone carry the purchases.”

Eijirou shot Shouto a look but he met it evenly. Izuku understood though. Shouto had to play his role just as much as Izuku did. And he played it beautifully.

“Very well,” Enji huffed. He then pointed a finger at Izuku. “Should any harm befall them-”

“You have already said the capital is safe,” Shouto snapped as he got to his feet, slipping his coat on over his vest. “You would be a fool to imply there is danger now.”

Shouto.”

Shouto ignored the obvious threat, holding out a hand and letting Ochako take it. Tenya and Eijirou were on his heels. Shouto met Izuku’s gaze evenly. “Take us into the markets. There is much my guests desire to see.”

Izuku nodded before bowing. He sent his mother a reassuring look. She glanced briefly at Shouto before giving a tiny nod, excusing herself from the room. Izuku then led the royals from the hall. Crossing the courtyard and making their way into the city below, Izuku felt he could breathe the moment they reached the first shop and people thronged around them.

“I see you are more comfortable here,” Shouto said, dropping Ochako’s hand in favour of his.

“Shouto,” Izuku said warningly, slipping his hand free. “Forgive me b-but we are in public. There may-”

“Be guards, of course,” Shouto said, rolling his eyes. “I apologise; the fault was mine. Now come, there must be something we have here which you do not have. And if Yuuei does not have it, I doubt any other kingdom will.”

Izuku nodded, dragging them down alleys and through crowded squares. They feasted on fried dough rolled in sugar and spices, they ate meat of deers and swans, and joined some Endeavan children their age in a game of chasing the dragon’s tail, something Eijirou found particularly amusing. He was, ironically, the worst at the game while Izuku was the best, quick and wily enough to avoid being tagged.

Stopping by a stall that specialised in sweet teas, they made their purchases and then Izuku led them to the rooftop of a nearby homestead. Tucked away on the roof was a garden, a single Endeavan enjoying the sunlight. Izuku sat them away from him and flumped onto the ground, Shouto snatching his tea before he could spill it.

“Oops, s-sorry Shouto!” Izuku giggled, sitting up and taking the mug back.

Shouto feigned disappointment. “Sometimes I feel Deku is the perfect name for you.”

Izuku flinched, Shouto’s eyes widening as Eijirou frowned. “Shouto, you just implied my friend is useless. Your next words had better be an apology.”

“No, it’s alright!” Izuku said, hands flailing. “It’s...it is my name!”

“But not the true meaning, I’m sure,” Shouto said, leaning over to kiss his forehead. “Forgive me?”

Izuku would have regardless but a part of him felt bad because Shouto wasn’t wrong. His name was useless. There was no other meaning to it.

“I have not seen you as often as of late,” Tenya spoke up, effectively changing the subject. “A shame, as I had been wanting to ask you about the Sports Festival.”

Izuku perked up, very much ignoring the skeptical look Shouto was giving him after he’d winced at the first part of that statement. “The Sports Festival is my favourite Yuueian tradition. I can tell you anything y-you’d like!”

“Excellent!” Tenya boomed, hands slapping together. He then lowered his voice. “I would, however, like to take this time to state that it is not my intent to spy based on whatever information you provide. It will, as always, stay between us five.”

“I will offer the same,” Shouto added, leaning back slightly so he was more in the shade. “Given how my father and All Might have been at each other’s throats, at least let me assure you I will not report back to him. I have no desire for our kingdoms to become enemies.”

Izuku quickly scrubbed away the tears in his eyes, sending Shouto and Tenya watery smiles. “T-thank you. That...that means a lot to me.”

“Deku, we’re your friends,” Ochako reiterated. “Your secrets are our secrets and our secrets are yours.”

Oh how Izuku felt guilt slam into him at that. It almost, almost, had him saying something he absolutely should not have said but at the moment, the Endeavan man behind them sneezed. Sense slammed back into him and his mouth snapped shut. No, he could not say. Someone may overhear. Someone in their very circle may not take the news well. No, this was not the time. Most certainly not.

Taking a long sip of his tea, he smiled sunnily at Tenya. “Tell me then, what you should like to know? A-and...prepare for long answers.”

He was met with a laugh from Eijirou and an arm wrapped around his shoulders by Ochako. It was, by the far, the best afternoon he could recall ever having.

Or perhaps it would have been had Shouto not grabbed him as they left the rooftop and whispered in his ear, “You will meet me at my chambers tonight. I would have words with you.”

 

***

 

Getting away from his mother had ended up being the hardest part, Izuku lying and pleading and saying that Eijirou wanted to see him one last time before they departed the day after tomorrow. Inko had finally relented but said he must return by sunrise at the latest. Izuku nodded furtively, kissing her cheek and then running off.

The way to Shouto’s chambers was mostly unknown to him but he’d spent the evening gathering the odd detail from one servant’s child to another until he had a full picture. Entering the hallway he thought was the right one, Izuku blanched upon seeing guards stationed at Shouto’s door. Of course there were, he had been idiot to assume there wouldn’t be.

Backtracking, Izuku found a room that would be adjacent to Shouto’s. Slipping inside, there was no connecting door but there was a window. Gulping, Izuku made his way to the window. It opened easily enough and, peering out, he found the one that was attached to Shouto’s room. A glance at the distance to the ground below had Izuku’s knees shaking but...He determinedly ignored the distance and studied the castle’s walls. They were rough, made of large stones and containing many ledges. It wouldn’t be that hard, surely.

Hoisting himself up, Izuku found his first handhold and foothold. Slow and steady would be the key here. There was no rush, he would be fine. Shuffling across in increments, Izuku only slipped once, foot giving out and having to cling on with his fingertips. He made it though, made it to Shouto’s window ledge and eased the window open. Relief made his shoulders sag when he saw Shouto sitting in the chair by the fire, a book in hand. Dropping to the floor, Izuku crept over. Shouto saw the shadows flickering almost immediately, going to call the guards when he recognised him. For the first time, surprise distorted his features. He then marched to the door, ordering his guards to leave and give him some privacy. The next second he was hauling Izuku away from the window.

“You...Are you a fool? The fall alone would have killed you!” he hissed.

“What else should I do?” Izuku snapped back. “Ask your guards to accommodate me?”

Shouto paused there before shaking his head. “You are right. Of course, you cannot do that.”

Izuku nodded just once, weight nervously shifting from foot to foot. “Did you...Have I d-displeased you in...in some way?”

Shouto sent him a frown. “No, of course not.” He put out the fire and climbed into bed, waving Izuku over. “In case someone checks on me,” he explained when Izuku showed no sign of joining him.

Izuku, hesitantly, climbed under the covers. “Then...why am I here?”

“You have been lying all day,” Shouto said bluntly, Izuku stilling. “See? You know you have been too. I assume, then, that my father has done something once more and you are too afraid to say what it is.”

Izuku didn’t answer for a long time, choosing his words carefully. “How...how could I? You say you want news of your father’s actions but...you were unhappy with how I had passed information onto Ochako.”

Shouto looked away. “She is…”

“She is my friend,” Izuku said gently. “If you can trust me, you can trust her.”

“You cannot trust royalty,” was the immediate answer.

“So I cannot trust you?”

“What? I-...No, royalty cannot trust royalty,” Shouto amended.

“That...that sounds like the teachings of your father,” Izuku murmured, taking a chance and reaching out so his fingers could toy with Shouto’s hair. Shouto blinked up at him slowly before leaning into the touch. “Yuueians...you are so soft.”

“Soft,” Izuku mocked. “Always people describe us as soft. A wolf is soft too, though it...it becomes angry when provoked. Or...or when its pack is threatened.”

Shouto saw the hint for what it was. “And who has threatened you?”

Izuku sighed, head falling onto Shouto’s chest. “You know who.”

“And his method?”

“...drowning. In a well...on accident.”

Shouto’s hand froze where it was resting on Izuku’s back. Izuku yelped at the cold, Shouto apologising and shushing him all at once. “Sorry but that...I will kill him.”

“You sound like Mama,” Izuku grumbled.

Shouto eyed him up for a long moment. “I...It is good your mother knows, I suppose. It means she can look out for you.”

“And y-you? Who is looking after you?”

“I-...”

“Shouto!”

“Hide!” Shouto barked, pushing Izuku out of the bed and waiting until he had crawled underneath before pretending to be asleep. Izuku held his breath as the Flame King strode into the room. There was a beat as the man looked around the room before he stomped to the bed, wrenching Shouto up. A smack echoed off the walls, Shouto crying out in pain.

“When will you learn Shouto? You do not disrespect me in my house. I created you and I am your king!”

“And one day, Father, I will be king. Perhaps I may decide the day for myself.”

Izuku’s eyes widened. Had...Did Shouto just threaten to murder his own father? He had to bite his lip to stop from crying out as Shouto was slammed into the nearest wall. “Once these pathetic rulers leave you will have no one to hide behind. Be mindful of that Shouto.”

Enji dropped Shouto to the ground like a ragdoll, door slamming behind him. Izuku scampered to his side, gently checking him for injuries before helping him back into bed. Shouto grabbed his arm and pulled him down beside him, voice cracking when he begged for him to stay. Izuku relented, sliding back in. His lips found Shouto’s forehead, his cheeks, and his nose before he pressed their foreheads together.

“One day, perhaps I will protect you, my Shouto.”

Shouto snickered, laughing louder at Izuku’s pout. “I should like to see you try, servant’s son.”

 

***

 

The Kings’ Summit finally concluded and each royal party went their own way. The worst was behind them for another five years.

Except for the fact that it had only just begun.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

The news spread through the five kingdoms like wildfire. Each royals’ spies hurried to get word to their kings before anyone else did, before the situation could escalate. Toshinori had been strolling through the capital and mingling with his people when Aizawa had suddenly appeared at his side. His look was so serious Toshinori nearly lost his composure, managing to excuse himself and be led into a side alley. And there, Aizawa delivered the news:

Iida Tensei, crown prince of Ingenium, was dead, murdered by the man known as Stain.

Toshinori felt the blood drain from his face. He summoned Tsukauchi to his side before hurrying back to the palace. This announcement would rock the foundations of their nations and Toshinori was painfully aware of how Enji had implicated Yuuei not one year earlier at the Kings’ Summit. There was no doubt in his mind that King Kaito would be enraged with Yuuei in the midst of his grief.

“Send whoever you need to to Ingenium to find Stain,” Toshinori barked to Aizawa. “I will provide cover for their positions whilst away.”

“Yes sire,” Aizawa said, slipping away only to double back. “Should I have Yamada pass the news onto the people?”

Toshinori hesitated before nodding. “Yes. To not do so would rock their faith in this household. Announce it at once.”

Aizawa truly did disappear that time, using his capture weapon to sling himself out the nearest window. Undoubtedly he was going to find Yamada and pass on the news before working out which of his own people he could spare. Alerting the people was the easy part. Sending in spies who could double as assassins was another class altogether.

“King Kaito is likely to come here,” Tsukauchi murmured as they headed to the council’s meeting room.

“I know,” Toshinori said through gritted teeth. “He will blame us even though we played no role in this.” He hesitated before, “Summon the Midoriyas. If Tenya comes, it will do to have Izuku on hand.”

Tsukauchi bowed quickly. “I will send for them immediately.”

With that, Toshinori reached the hall, pushing the doors open. The current meeting paused and then halted entirely upon seeing his face. Taking his place at the head of the table, Toshinori steepled his fingers together. “There is new matter at hand that must be dealt with.”

 

***

 

As predicted, King Kaito did come to Yuuei. He came in a flurry of anger and steel and Toshinori could barely greet him cordially. It was obvious he was in the throes of grief and Toshinori couldn’t blame him at all. His son was gone. Taken, far before his time. Gods only knew what Toshinori would do if Izuku were to meet the same fate. Threats alone had nearly destroyed him. He couldn’t hope to imagine what Kaito was currently going through.

“Come, sit,” he said, gesturing to a chair only to met with a scowl.

“You think I will accept your kindness at a time like this?” Kaito glowered at him. “I have half a mind to kill you where you stand, Toshinori. Had you kept your people under contro-”

“Stain is not one of my people,” he snapped back, eyes burning. “And be careful what you say. A threat is still a threat and you are on Yuueian soil now.”

Kaito scoffed. “Is that, perhaps, why you did not visit me? As Ishiyama did, as Enji intends to? Because you were afraid of what would befall you?”

“I did not visit because you did not ask,” Toshinori pointed out as calmly as he could. “I did not know if my presence would be welcome.”

“It would not have been.”

“Then why protest when I did not come?”

Toshinori was met with a growl. “How easy this must be for you. You who has no child. You who has no concept of grief.”

“We have all experienced grief,” Toshinori murmured. “But yes, I cannot understand what you are going through.”

There was a long moment. “Then perhaps I will give you the closest taste I can.” Toshinori stiffened as Kaito pointed to the door. “That boy, his parents are extremely loyal to you, are they not? They rely on you to look after their son?”

Please no,’ Toshinori thought, turning around and finding Izuku standing in the doorway at Tsukauchi’s side, holding the wine pitcher while his manservant carried their food. “A servant is hardly a compromise,” he said, making his tone as light as possible. “And one so young.”

“Tell that to his parents,” Kaito snarled. “Or would you deny me?”

“Why should I accept when I have done nothing to anger you?”

“You have done nothing to prove your innocence either. The boy is mine until I see fit. You can replace him well enough, can’t you? Just, as I’m sure, you will say of Tensei.”

“Kaito, no!” Toshinori snapped when Izuku was grabbed by the arm, yanked to the other king’s side. “He is a boy; let him go.”

Kaito’s gaze was frightfully cold. “I will take him or I will slay him where he stands in recompense. What do you choose, Toshinori?”

Looking at the guards, both the Yuueian and Ingeniun ones, that were preparing to draw swords or activate their quirks, Toshinori’s shoulders dropped. “Take him,” he choked out.

“A-All Might?” Izuku stammered, eyes panicked and quickly taking two steps back only to yelp when he was held in place. “Y-your H-highness?”

“I wonder,” Kaito murmured, cupping Izuku’s cheek with a hand and taking in his tears. “Was this how my son looked?” He then snapped his fingers. “We will take our leave. Your hospitality is unwanted and your guilt, until proven otherwise, still stands.”

Kaito, stop!” All Might hissed. “Let the boy say goodbye! His mother knows nothing of-”

“Toshinori, we did not get to say goodbye. Now watch her grief, and perhaps understand what my kingdom feels.”

Toshinori stood frozen as Izuku was dragged away. The boy was clearly torn between struggling and letting himself be taken. He reached for him, eyes overflowing, and Toshinori had to do the worst thing of his life; he had to shake his head and look away. Izuku’s sobs haunted him for months to come.

Haunted him as much as Inko coming into his chambers some hours later, harried but smiling and inquiring innocently if he had seen Izuku. Her grief stricken wails would never leave his memory.

 

***

 

Izuku kept his head buried in his knees, tucked away in his corner of the Ingeniun carriage. Some of the guards gave him sympathetic looks while most looked at him as though he was the scum of the earth. Or, at least, as though he was nothing but a baby, crying over being separated from his mother. It put the thought in his head that if King Enji was the one who had created Stain, the one who used him, he was a devilishly smart man. In one fell swoop he had taken out of kingdom’s crown prince and ruined their relations with another.

“C’mon kid,” one of the guards said, nudging him with his boot. “Stop snivelling and talk to us. You’re a servant; you must have heard something.”

Izuku lifted his head enough to glare at the man. “I have heard nothing except how much All Might grieves with you.”

He yelped as a knife imbedded itself in the wall next to his head. “He grieves, does he?”

“A-All Might is good and kind!” Izuku snapped. “He would not wish death on anyone!”

“Oh, that’s a sore spot,” a different guard taunted, tugging on his hair sharply. “A little worshipful of your king, are you?”

Izuku met his gaze easily. “Are you any different with yours?”

He was met with raised eyebrows before being released. “You know kid, you aren’t that bad. Loyalty is respected in Ingenium. I suppose I can’t fault you on that.”

“Thank you,” Izuku whispered before burrowing back into his knees. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t!

It wasn’t as though he had a choice though, their journey lasting another ten days before they reached Ingenium’s capital. As the caravan disassembled, Izuku was presented to the King. King Kaito, by all accounts, had almost seemed to have forgotten he was there, looking at him in confusion before scowling. He then ordered Izuku be locked in the dungeons and that was that. From there, Izuku didn’t know how many days passed. He was never allowed to leave his cell, was given only one meal a day, and nothing could coerce the guards to talk to him.

His only saving grace was a tiny window located at the top of his cell. It was too high for Izuku to look out of, even on tiptoe, but he had managed to find footholds enough. It wasn’t as though he did it to escape, merely to observe. Ingenium seemed to be a beautiful kingdom. The air was always crisp and tinged with salt, the sun shone and the birds made loud caws rather than singing. The grass looked soft and the dirt almost white, rather than the brown earth of Yuuei or the red earth of Riot.

It was, on one such day, that Izuku’s luck changed. For there, walking across the grounds, was Tenya. He appeared to be coming back from training, clothes soaked with sweat. Chewing his bottom lip, Izuku looked around his cell. Yelling would attract attention but he had been given dates with his midday meal. Perhaps if he threw them?

Throwing himself down, Izuku scooped them up before scurrying back up the wall. The angle was far from good and the first two collided with the bars but the third fruit managed to sail across the grass, landing a good foot or so from Tenya. Another and then another, and then one more and Tenya noticed. With a frown, he crouched to inspect the fruit. Izuku took that as his chance, throwing one more and smothering a laugh when he managed to hit Tenya on the side of the head.

“That is highly inappropriate!” Tenya boomed to apparently no one before stalking over to the castle walls.

Izuku thrust his hand out, Tenya crouching down tentatively. His eyes then widened. “D-deku?!”

“It is good to see you,” Izuku whispered, voice breaking. He clasped Tenya’s hand tightly. “You look well. I’m glad.”

“Deku, why...Surely you are not in the dungeons?” Izuku offered a sad smile, Tenya’s jaw dropping before he snapped it back into place. “Do not move; I shall be there momentarily!”

“I wasn’t planning to,” Izuku grumbled as Tenya dashed off. Dropping to the ground, Izuku waited impatiently until he heard arguing coming from the entrance. The next thing he knew, Tenya was at his cell door, gesturing for the guard to open it. Izuku remained where he was until Tenya waved him forward, at which point he approached timidly. He was marched to Tenya’s chambers, the prince examining his face upon their arrival.

“You look quite terrible,” Tenya stated bluntly. “How is it you came to be here?”

Izuku drew his bottom lip between his teeth. This wasn’t Shouto or Eijirou or Ochako and, truth be told, Izuku didn’t know where he stood with Tenya. He didn’t know if he could say.

Deku.” Tenya’s voice was harsher now. “Tell me, why are you in Ingenium?”

Izuku’s hands wrung together fretfully. “K-King Kaito, he...he wanted to...teach All Might a l-lesson? About...g-grief and so...he brought me here…” Izuku’s breath hitched. “I didn’t...not even to Mama, I-...”

Tenya looked horrified, shifting his weight awkwardly before pulling Izuku into his arms. “Please do not cry. I’m sure I can sort this out.”

“I...I want Mama.” Izuku didn’t care what he sounded like, curling in on himself and sobbing loudly.

“Deku, please!” Tenya said, hands waving erratically. “I don’t-! Please do not cry! I can-...I’m sure something can be done.”

The door to Iida’s chambers was pushed open without so much as a knock and Izuku panicked only to have his heart stop when jagged ice suddenly shot between him and Tenya. The door was slammed and then the sounds of boots crunching. “I would speak quickly Tenya.”

Izuku knew that voice. “Shouto!” he hiccoughed, stumbling to his feet and going to throw his arms around him only to realise how he looked. Shouto clearly thought the same, fingers stopping just shy of his clothing. “Tenya?”

“It is not his fault!” Izuku blurted out. “Tenya has just discovered me himself. He...he did not know I was here!”

Shouto looked between them, seemingly satisfied when Tenya nodded.

“W-why are you here?” Izuku hedged, tentatively interlacing their fingers.

“My father has come to pay his respects for the fallen prince,” Shouto replied, thumbing the back of Izuku’s hand. “Our arrival is to be announced soon but for now I wanted to greet you privately, without the fanfare.”

Tenya sighed, “I wish there was no need for fanfare. Surely this is meant to be a sad visit?”

“Tenya…” Izuku murmured worried while Shouto merely shrugged.

“When does my father not make things about himself?” He then glanced at Tenya. “Have you been provided with a manservant as of yet?”

Tenya frowned before his eyes fell to Izuku. “Oh. N-No, I do not and that is an excellent idea Shouto! Since Deku is here, it would make sense to make use of him.”

“I agree,” Shouto murmured, taking Izuku by the arm and leading him through a door to their left. “I will attend to him if you send for clothes?”

Tenya nodded and disappeared, leaving Izuku alone with Shouto in what he realised was Tenya’s private changing area. There was a bathtub that sat empty and an array of towels arranged on the windowsill. Filling the tub with ice and then melting and warming it until it was the desired temperature, Shouto indicated for Izuku to climb in. Izuku squeaked in embarrassment, Shouto rolling his eyes but turning around. Discarding his clothes as quickly as possible, Izuku slipped into the tub, eyes sinking shut as warmth surrounded him.

“You look comfortable,” Shouto remarked blandly, sitting himself on the windowsill.

Izuku poked his tongue out. “I-I...cannot tell you how long it has been since I last bathed.”

Shouto’s lips pursed though he shook his head when Izuku made to apologise. Instead he came closer, tipping some lotion into his hands and starting to run it through Izuku’s hair. “Hush,” he scolded when Izuku started stammering. “There is no one to see us.”

“It is still not your duty,” Izuku mumbled.

“Perhaps. But you are my friend, not my servant.”

Izuku hummed in disapproval but knew there was nothing he could do. He let Shouto wash his hair and thanked Tenya when he came back with clothes. He had seen Ingeniun clothes before but wearing them was something new. They were soft and made of a lighter fabric, trousers coming to mid-calf while the shirts mimicked those of Yuuei. The difference though was that instead of waistcoats as Yuuei wore, Ingeniun embroided the front of their shirts with frills and ruffles, cording and fine beadwork. Izuku’s fingers traced the cording with wonder.

“This is beautiful Tenya.”

Tenya beamed, clapping him on the shoulder. “I am glad!” A loud gong cut them off, Tenya’s back straightening while Shouto’s shoulders dropped. “It seems we are being summoned. Stay here Deku. I shall present your case to my father in the morning, after we have entertained Endeavour.”

Izuku nodded, squeezing Tenya’s hand tightly and kissing Shouto’s cheek gently. “Thank you, both of you...for what you have done.”

Tenya smiled at him before turning. And then...then Shouto’s lips were against his cheek for once and oh, that was...new…

 

***

 

Tenya had been kind enough to put Izuku up in his room, arranging the cushions on the bay window so there was room for him to sleep and having a servant fetch a blanket. Izuku had all but collapsed into bed, so tired after spending god knows how long sleeping on a stone floor. He didn’t hear Tenya and Shouto come back from their supper, didn’t stir when Tenya tucked the blanket tighter around his shoulders or when Shouto tutted at his still wet hair. The first Izuku knew of anything was the next morning, when the sunlight streaming in the window woke him up. Looking across the room, Tenya’s bed was empty but the room was soon filled once more when he came back in a burst of speed, clearly having been out running.

“Ah, you’re awake!” Tenya said joyfully but a little too loudly for so early in the morning.

“I am,” Izuku rasped, clearing his throat before pushing himself up. “D-Did you need any assistance?”

Tenya blinked at him. “Deku, I did not-! Shouto and I do not mean for you to actually be my servant!”

Izuku merely shrugged. “It is what I am. Why...I can be a servant in Ingenium a-as well as I can in Yuuei.”

His friend’s face softened. “I’m certain you can! But please, I almost consider you a guest at this point. Come, join me for breakfast. If you haven’t noticed, you are quite thin.”

It took a lot of control for Izuku to keep his face blank there. It wasn’t like the guards had only been giving him one meal a day! It was hardly any fault of his! But then...it wasn’t any fault of Tenya’s either and Tenya was the one who had saved him. Bowing sincerely, Izuku collected the loafers he had been provided with yesterday and followed Tenya to what he assumed was the Iida family dining hall. It was neither small nor large but had a beautiful view of the capital around and below them, even spanning as far as the ocean. Izuku felt his breath catch. For all he had seen, he had never seen the ocean before.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Iida asked quietly, something Izuku wasn’t aware he was even able to do. He nodded cautiously, hesitating in the doorway.

“Tenya?” Queen Miho enquired, turning around with a pinched brow. “Who are you-...Goodness, who is this boy? Is he…” She squinted slightly. “Gods above, is he Yuueian?”

King Kaito swung around at that, scowl deep right up until he recognised Izuku. Then, all at once, he seemed to go very pale.

“He is indeed,” Tenya stated firmly, dragging Izuku when he suddenly decided he didn’t want to be there. “You may remember Deku from the Kings’ Summits. He is a servant in All Might’s household and Prince Eijirou’s particular friend. Which is why, I admit, I was confused to find him in the dungeons yesterday.”

“In the dungeons?” Miho gasped, horrified. She quickly waved Izuku over, checking him for scuffs or injuries. “How on earth…”

“I did it.” Everyone whipped around, King Kaito still staring at Izuku in shock. “I...After Tensei’s death, when I visited Yuuei. I hoped...I hoped at the time to teach All Might grief but I...I had forgotten all about him until just now.”

The hands holding Izuku went very, very still. When Miho spoke, it reminded Izuku a lot of his mother. “You mean to tell me, Kaito, that in your two months since leaving Yuuei, you have left a boy in the dungeons? All for a crime he did not commit?”

Whatever Kaito was about to say next was cut off by Izuku stammering, “T-two m-months? Has it...s-so long?” Another thought then struck him, breath catching and tears forming. “Mama!”

He looked up at Tenya imploringly, who explained on his behalf, “I believe Deku was unable to say his farewells before leaving Yuuei. I am sure his parents miss him.”

The room went still, even the breeze seeming to stop. Miho rounded on her husband. “You and I will discuss this later and apologies must be made to Yuuei. This…” Miho softened at seeing Izuku’s tears. “He is a child Kaito! And his mother; she must be so worries! Come Deku, let us write her a letter this instant.”

“W-will you send me home?” Izuku asked timidly as he was led to the table. “I-...I told T-Prince Tenya that I...I did not m-mind being his servant until I am no longer...n-needed.”

Miho tutted. “That shall be discussed later. Now here, let me tell you what I am writing. Are you capable of writing?”

“I...I can write my name?” he offered.

“Good,” she said with a nod. “Then I shall ask you to write it at the bottom so your mother will be able to see the writing is yours.”

Queen Miho was honest to her word, Izuku watching her write with rapt attention, reading disguised as curiosity. There were no lies in her letter and she even allowed, when Izuku asked, him to seal the letter. Which was perfect as it gave him just enough time to scrawl out “Izuku” as opposed to “Deku” and roll the parchment up before anyone could see. Now his mother would truly know he was alive and well. No one else would be able to forge a name they did not know.

With the letter sent away on a white and grey eagle, King Kaito awkwardly coughed. “Perhaps Deku should join us for breakfast?”

Tenya was nodding even as Izuku was shaking his head. “The o-other servants would be...jealous.”

Miho met him with a calculating look. “If you dine with us, you will make the servants jealous. If you do not dine with us, we cannot repay you for your hardships. Do you have a solution?”

Izuku was a little taken aback. He went to shake his head before… “May I...h-have the morning off to...to visit the seaside?”

“Deku, have you never seen the sea before?” Tenya demanded, mouth dropping open when he was met with a shake of the head. “Mother, Father, we must allow him this!”

“You may have the day,” Kaito compromised. “Be back before it is time to prepare for the evening meal though. Serve Tenya tonight and he can decide whether he would like you to stay or not.”

Izuku bowed deeply, stunned when he was offered a few coins and then sent on his way. No sooner had the door shut and the sound of fierce and indignant yelling came from within. Izuku winced. He would not like to be King Kaito right now.

Periodically checking to see if he was being followed - he wasn’t - Izuku made his way down to the beach. The trek was a twisting and winding one, Ingenium having few roads and instead having paths and stairways that led over and around people’s houses. It was like one collective hive spanning down the slopes to the white sand at the bottom. Izuku relished the freedom, sticking away from the more populated areas because of his Yuueian colouring though no one seemed to want to do him harm.

Two levels or so from the ocean, the waves crashing around his ears, Izuku was distracted by a flash of familiar colour to his left. Quickly spinning around, he paused when there was nothing there. And yet...he had been so sure.

Sparing the beach one last longing glance, Izuku jumped onto the stairway below him. He slipped into an alley and caught that flash of colour again, this time heading left. Breaking out into a sprint, Izuku ran, chasing that shadow again and again until he finally caught them at a dead end and,

“Hitoshi…”

The young spy smirked at him, cupping Izuku’s cheeks and pressing their noses together. “Good morning my Prince.”

“Hitoshi.”

The call was probably meant to be a warning but it only made Izuku smile wider, flinging his arms around the newcomer, much to their immense displeasure. “Aizawa! What are you...You’re so far from Y-yuuei!”

Aizawa met his gaze flatly. “Kid, you’re hundreds of miles from home in the hands of a man who threatened to kill both you and All Might. And with King Enji on his way. You realise how that can look like an assassination attempt on you, right? One with no witnesses?”

Izuku suddenly felt very cold.

“Papa!” Hitoshi scolded, bumping Izuku’s shoulder reassuringly. “He is fine.”

“Yes, but we didn’t know that until just now,” Aizawa cut in sharply. He crouched down so he could meet Izuku eye-to-eye. “I have spies in the castle but they haven’t seen you. Where have you been?”

“In the dungeon,” Izuku whispered.

Aizawa raised an eyebrow. “And you escaped or…?”

Izuku shook his head. “Prince Tenya found me. He took me to the king and queen. It...King Kaito f-forgot about me.”

“Forgot?” Aizawa hissed. “Forgot about you? When Yuuei is planning to go to war over your safe return!”

What?” Izuku cried, Hitoshi slapping a hand over his mouth.

Aizawa held up a finger. “Had you not be found in one month, Toshinori was planning to reveal your identity so as to have you back. You are the future of Yuuei!”

Izuku ducked away, eyes set on the ground. “I am fine,” he ground out. “And...And Queen Miho has sent word to Yuuei.”

A hand wrapped around his arm, yanking him forward. “Don’t test me and complain. Your father has risked a great deal to find you.”

“I-...I did not ask!” Izuku countered, voice breaking. “I-...I am just a country boy! I am not a king like All Might. I do not wish anyone to...to die for me.”

Aizawa sighed, taking him by surprise by whisking him up. “No Yuueian ruler ever has,” he said quietly. “And no, you will not be a king like All Might. You will be a king like Izuku and we will die for you nonetheless.”

Izuku sobbed, latching onto Aizawa. Aizawa groaned in exasperation but held him until he was done, finally setting him down and wiping his face none too gently. “Since you’re safe my job is done, which means my son’s is as well. Go, explore. Hitoshi, be back before sundown.”

Izuku and Hitoshi exchanged grins before taking off, tackling each other into the sand once they hit the water’s edge. There would be time to worry later. For now, it was time to eat, drink, and be merry.

 

***

 

So as not to bring shame on Ingenium, Izuku had been excused from the feast that night. To say he was relieved was an understatement. After Aizawa’s chilling words, Izuku had become very aware of the situation he was in. King Enji could kill him at any time if he was discovered and he would have no one to help. He couldn’t rely on the servants here because they didn’t know him and, for once, his mother and All Might were not just around the corner.

Shouto must have had at least in inkling towards his thought pattern as he had had Izuku hide in his own chambers rather than Tenya’s. Izuku understood. If his presence was somehow discovered or mentioned, Enji would never suspect him to be in his own son’s room. Tenya’s? Possibly. Shouto’s? Definitely not.

But that had been hours ago and Izuku was again in the company of both princes although he did wonder what had led to this particular situation. His musings were interrupted though by the painful yank on his hair.

Shouto!” he whined, smacking his hands away.

Shouto scowled and bopped him on the head with his comb. “Deku, have you, perchance, seen your hair? I’m sure it is half sand and half salt at present.”

“I already washed it!” Izuku protested, crying out again when the comb snagged another knot.

“That didn’t hurt,” Shouto drawled.

Petulant, Izuku snatched the comb from him. “Perhaps for you who has straight hair! I g-guarantee that it is hurting me.”

Shouto paused, Tenya looking up from the book he was reading. Hesitantly, Shouto traced his curls. “It truly pains you.” His eyes widened slightly. “I am sorry Deku.”

“‘S fine,” he grumbled, attempting to tame the mess himself before giving up. “I am...not so good at it myself. Mama has a special oil. Here, let us trade!”

Shouto blinked at him. “My hair is tidy, unlike yours.”

Izuku wasn’t to be deterred, making him turn around and running the comb through a few times. “Tenya, w-would you like to be next?”

Tenya spluttered and both Izuku and Shouto laughed. Confident Shouto was not going to wriggle away or fight him, Izuku shifted to his knees and began to braid Shouto’s hair through the middle. White and red mixed together seamlessly, Izuku clubbing the end before tucking it under itself. He gestured to the mirror opposite. “And?”

Shouto looked at his reflection for a long moment before scowling darkly, reaching for the tie.

“S-Shouto!” Izuku cried, catching his hands. “What’s...Is it so bad?”

His friend paused, eyes meeting his through the mirror. “My scar is hardly pleasant to look at. It is too revealed this way.”

“I do not think so!” Tenya argued, Izuku nodding quickly.

Shouto hesitated further before, “And...you have combined two parts of me I never wish to meet.” He touched his hair cautiously. “I have renounced my father. Do not pair him with my mother.”

When he went to pull the band away again, Izuku stopped him, fingers curling over his. He propped his chin a top Shouto’s head. “Funny...for I do not see E-Enji at all in this mirror. N-nor do I see...your mother. I see Shouto. He looks like Shouto and a-acts like him.” Izuku sighed, nuzzling into Shouto’s hair. “You are not half your mother and half your father, just like you are not half his quirk and half...hers. You are you and...And you have your own quirk! It is...it is yours to do as you wish.”

Shouto turned to face him slowly. “Deku…”

“I-I have said too much!” Izuku stammered, flailing back and only not toppling because Tenya caught him.

“I think...you have said just enough,” Shouto admitted. “However, I’m afraid I am not that comfortable yet.”

Izuku made no protest when the braid was undone this time, simply accepting the tie back and pulling his own hair up into a messy bun. Shouto gave an odd smile.

“How is it you can do my hair and yet not your own?”

“It is easier when I can see,” Izuku replied with a smile. “And besides, I h-have had much practice. Mama...I often help her with her hair.”

“And your father too?” Tenya asked, snapping his book shut. “I realised today Deku that you never mention him. Surely he works in the palace too?”

Oh he did but Izuku couldn’t say that.

No, he could only lower his head and mumble, “My father, Hisashi...he died before...before I was even born. We never met.”

Tenya choked on his inhale and Shouto paled a good shade or two. “I am sorry!” Tenya said hurriedly. “I did not realise! And oh! - for Father to have taken you. Your poor mother!”

The tears there were real because yes, Izuku imagined she missed him a great deal. As he did her. Shouto was eyeing him up critically, flushing when he realised Izuku had caught him but that didn’t stop him from speaking his mind. It never did.

“You are some thirteen years old, as I am. That time...When we were born, Yuuei and Endeavour were in the midst of war. Was your father there?”

Shouto!” Tenya hissed but Izuku was already nodding. Shouto made a wounded noise and Izuku hugging him consolingly. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t even real! “That war,” Tenya murmured. “What was the cause even?”

“Yuueians were farming Endeavan land.”
“Endeavour moved the kingdom boundaries.”

Shouto and Izuku stared at each other, Izuku quickly apologising while Shouto’s hands curled into fists. “How like my father to lie,” he seethed.

“You do not know that,” Izuku chided gently.

The way Shouto sniffed haughtily said he very much did. “You think I do not know he has pinned Stain on Yuuei? And that he is here on the pretense of killing the man so Ingenium will be grateful and feel indebted?”

“...Father is already preparing you a noble's daughter as a gift,” Tenya breathed, Shouto’s eyes darkening while Izuku tensed. “I believe he intends to offer her as a bride.”

Izuku sunk down in relief while Shouto turned downright murderous. “Of course that is his plan! Undoubtedly this girl has a wonderful quirk that would prove unstoppable when combined with mine.” Shouto scoffed. “How low of him.”

“No…” Izuku didn’t even notice the princes’ staring at him, not when his own head was pounding. “He...a marriage like that would all but tie Ingenium to Endeavour. The only kingdom between both of yours in Riot. They may be strong but they are a small kingdom. If...a pincer attack…”

“Father would not betray Riot,” Tenya growled but he seemed rattled, Shouto more so. He then pressed a finger to Izuku’s lips. “Those words never left your mouth, do you hear Deku? Those are treasonous and my father can never know what you suspect! I will watch him closely but you will turn a blind eye, do you understand?”

“Shouto…”

Do you understand, Deku of Yuuei?”

Under that commanding voice, Izuku cowered. “Yes My Prince.”

“Good. Now leave, please. I wish to speak to Tenya alone.”

Izuku could only nod meekly, sliding to the floor and padding out of the room. What had he done?

 

***

 

It was the creaking of the door that woke him up, Izuku jolting upright. He could hear yelling outside - soldiers bellowing orders - and Tenya was sneaking out into the hall. Izuku chased after him, snagging him just at the doorway. “Tenya, what are you doing?”

“Deku, please, this is my business.”

Izuku blinked at the coldness there. “Tenya, w-what are you…?”

“I have a duty to my kingdom, my family, and my people,” Tenya said stonily. “Now, stay here.”

No.” Izuku’s voice was firm, unwavering. “I...I do not know what you intend to do but...I am your servant. My job is to follow you.”

“Then as my servant I give you one order only: do not leave Prince Shouto’s side.”

Izuku blinked. “What? No! Tenya, I-”

He yelped as he was struck. He stared up at Tenya with wide, hurt eyes, a hand flying to his stinging cheek. Tenya was breathing hard, refusing to look at him. “Deku, that is an order. Leave this vengeance to me.”

Izuku could only nod numbly, staring at the empty hallway under suddenly the pieces lined up. King Enji coming to take down Stain, soldiers moving out in the middle of the night, Stain only ever being reported to attack at night, vengeance.

“Shit!”

Izuku had never run faster in his life.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Izuku sprinted through the halls of the Ingeniun castle, backtracking to a room he had been in not two hours earlier. Seeing a guard stationed out of Shouto’s room, Izuku hesitated before fumbling for the shell necklace he and Hitoshi had made at the beach. Yanking one of the larger cowrie shells off, Izuku threw it down the hallway to his left. As he’d hoped, the guard left to investigate the noise, Izuku slipping into Shouto’s room and easing the door shut behind him. Shouto was sleeping peacefully and Izuku felt bad to wake him but he had to.

Reaching out, Izuku gently shook his shoulder. “Shouto? Shou’?”

Shouto’s forehead scrunched up before he suddenly snapped awake. He blinked a few times to orientate himself before, “...Deku? What are you-”

Izuku placed a hand over his mouth gently. “P-please Shouto, I don’t...we d-don’t have time but T-Tenya...he has...your father’s men are h-hunting Stain and Tenya...Tenya has…”

Shouto was out of bed before Izuku could finish. His steps were hurried as he made his way over to his wardrobe. His sleep clothes were tossed aside as Shouto quickly dressed. He eyed Izuku momentarily before shaking his head. Izuku felt his blood boil because he knew what that meant. Spurred on by his concern for Tenya, Izuku strode to Shouto’s wardrobe and grabbed a coat, tugging it on.

“Deku, you are not coming!” Shouto hissed.

“If not for me, y-you would not be either!” Izuku shot back, buttoning the Endeavan coat and trying to hide his disdain. Wearing his “enemies” colours did not sit well with him.

Shouto still was clearly not impressed. “Deku, you’re quirkless.”

“And what? Does that mean I cannot help my friend?”

Can you?” Shouto challenged.

Izuku’s hands curled into fists, glaring at him. “In any way that I can.”

He wouldn’t waver on this and Shouto seemed to finally realise that, sighing and shucking on his own coat. Already seeming to know that walking out the front door wasn’t an option, Shouto pushed open his window. He held out a hand as he climbed onto the ledge, Izuku tentatively taking it before involuntarily gasping at the drop before them.

“You can stay,” Shouto murmured, though there was no harshness in it this time.

“So can you,” Izuku whispered, so, so pleased when that got him a smile.

And then they were off, into the city. Shouto used his ice to create a path down and once they hit the grass they were running. After all, Ingenium’s capital was a veritable sprawl of buildings. It would take hours to search every level, every alley. All Izuku could hope was that some of the patrolling soldiers would find Tenya first.

“What do you know of Stain?” Shouto asked as they slipped from one shadow to another.

“Very little,” Izuku replied, ducking down behind a crate and pulling Shouto with him as a guard passed them. “Only that he comes at night and preys on the nobles unfortunate enough to be alone at such hours.”

Shouto grunted, tugging them to a staircase. “That is what we all thought. And then Tensei...Going after a prince; that is a declaration of war.”

“But with who? And from where?”

“That I don’t know.”

Izuku pursed his lips, conversation dying off as their search became their sole focus. Izuku had a better understanding of backstreets and townspeople while Shouto had better speed and agility. And a quirk that could get them from A to B with ease. Crossing one such ice bridge, Izuku screeched to a halt, slipping and going down hard. His chin slammed into the ice and his head spun but he didn’t even hear Shouto worriedly calling to him because, to his left, pinned to the ground,

“Tenya!”

He didn’t mean to scream, really he didn’t, it just happened. Shouto swore when the man standing over Tenya - someone who could only be Stain - turned towards them. The element of surprise was lost but Izuku didn’t care, jumping down and racing to the alley.

“Deku!”
“Deku, what are you-?!”

He threw himself between Tenya and Stain, arms spread wide and eyes brimming with unshed tears. “P-please. He is...my f-friend and he...he is young.”

Izuku flinched when a firm hand settled on his shoulder. “You’re brave. But also...foolish.”

The next thing he knew was blinding pain as he was hurled across the alley, back slamming into the wall closest. He flopped to the ground, stunned. Tenya was calling for him but he didn’t seem to be moving and it was enough to make Izuku gain some sort of semblance. Was this, perhaps, Stain’s quirk? Could he...immobilise people?

Stain barely spared him a look, eyes still locked on Tenya. “This one...I would have spared him except he came to me. Another royal, another noble, here for the good of the people.” Those last four words were dripping with loathing. Izuku shuddered at his sneer. “What people? Themselves? Their kings? Locked away and lording it over us all?”

“Just like a commoner to think ruling so easy.” Shouto’s tone was bone-chilling and Stain suddenly seemed to realise he was there.

“Oh, and who are you? Are you in his household?”

Izuku and Shouto screamed as Stain brought his sword down, pinning Tenya’s arm to the ground. Tenya himself was screaming but also yelling at them, telling them to run, to get away.

“I don’t serve anyone,” Shouto shot back, still calm but Izuku could see the sweat lining his brow. He had to do something too. He couldn’t stay against this wall; there had to be a way he could help, that he could defeat Stain.

Stop it!” Izuku was on his feet, tears flowing but voice rough. “T-Tenya has done nothing! He is good a-and...and his brother was good! And Shou-Shouto...he does what is right...t-to which he is allowed.”

Unfortunately, Shouto chose that moment to attack, ice rapidly forming across the ground. Stain moved, faster than Izuku’s eyes could track. He heard Shouto grunt in pain, breath catching when he saw the cut now on his cheek. An inch or so higher and it would have taken his eye with it. Izuku saw Shouto whirl around, ready to attack again and then…

He dropped.

As though someone had flipped a switch, Shouto dropped to the ground. Izuku’s head snapped around, finding Stain just in time to see him remove his knife from his mouth and-...Blood. He controlled them with blood. Tenya’s sliced arms, Shouto’s cut cheek, his own ability to still move. Izuku hastily wiped the back of his head, relieved when he found no blood there. So long as he didn’t bleed, Stain couldn’t control him.

Of course that was when the man suddenly appeared before him, knife pressed against his throat. “And who are you? You’re the only one who hasn’t bothered me.”

“I-...I am D-Deku,” he managed, body shaking. “I am...a servant from Y-Yuuei. I am here...a-as...punishment. For...for your crime a-against Prince Tensei.”

For a second, Izuku thought he almost saw surprise in those gleaming eyes. A hand then cupped his cheek, making him flinch.

“Leave him; he has done nothing!” Shouto bellowed.

“Yes! If anything, he is here because of me!” Tenya agreed, looking at Izuku fretfully. “He is only here on our orders! He is a servant; he has no nobility to his name.”

Oh he did but this was most certainly not the time to say it.

It didn’t matter though, Stain’s grip on his neck tightening. “Good. Then perhaps you can learn some humanity before you leave this world. Perhaps you can be taught. Remember,” he said, a wicked grin spreading across his face. “This was because of you.”

Pain.

That was all Izuku knew.

White, hot pain roared through him. There was screaming, yelling, some his own as Stain plunged the knife in; once, twice. His shoulder, his thigh, burning as blood started to soak his clothes.

And then there was fire. Fire so hot Izuku felt he might burn himself. His neck was released and he slumped to the ground. He didn’t even have time to blink before Shouto was there, standing over him, flames licking up and down his left side. His face...it was a face Izuku had only even seen on King Enji and he knew what it meant. It spelt death and destruction and maybe for once he was almost alright with it. Because it wasn’t aimed at him, it was aimed at someone who had hurt countless people.

Stain seemed taken aback by the flames; obviously he’d picked Shouto as an ice-user and nothing else. Izuku didn’t blame him. Until this moment he would classified Shouto as an ice-user.

“Shouto, take Deku and run!” Tenya shouted.

“If you want him to run then do it yourself!” Shouto snapped back, flames filling the alley once more and causing Stain to jump away.

“Sh-Shouto, your...your flames,” Deku managed, Shouto not looking at him but nodding imperceptibly. “You should...a beacon. Bring help.”

The prince did just that, a pillar of fire roaring into the sky. Stain bellowed in anger, two knives being thrown Shouto’s way. Shouto trapped them in ice, raising his own fists in preparation to fight. Stain leapt towards them, Shouto’s fist pulled back and then Tenya was there, engines whining and firing off a blue exhaust. His knee collided with Stain’s face, the sound of his jaw breaking as he was shot across the alley. Shouto was right there with his ice, constructing a prison and lining it with warning spikes. For all the good it would do - Stain was already out cold.

Izuku’s eyes sank shut in relief. They...they’d done it. Somehow, miraculously, they’d done it.

Shouto’s flames slowly dispersed, the prince staring at his left hand in something akin to disgust. He sent Tenya the darkest look Izuku had ever seen before coming to crouch at his side, hushing him as he pulled him into a seated position. “Deku?”

“Fine,” he grunted, groaning at the footsteps approaching. “Now leave. You...mind Stain or...be at Tenya’s side. He is a p-prince.”

Shouto frowned in displeasure but did as asked, striding past Tenya and holding down the fort at Stain’s side. It wasn’t a second too soon either, King Enji arriving with an entourage of soldiers behind him. Enji took in the scene with one sharp, calculating glance. Izuku made sure he was staring at nothing but the ground, making himself as inconspicuous as possible. They were snapped up by the guards and marched back to the castle, deposited in front of King Kaito and Queen Miho. Stain was delivered to the dungeons and Izuku wasn’t lost on the irony. Or rather, he wasn’t lost on the irony until the thought was, quite literally, smacked out of him.

“Enji!”
“Father!”

Izuku whimpered as he was yanked back to his feet and pinned to the wall closest. “Silence!” Enji roared, eyes burning. “You think I have not noticed this...quirkless being at the centre of everything? He is always in the wrong place.”

“He warned me of Tenya’s plight!” Shouto countered, voice level but face set. “Without him, Ingenium may have been without an heir at all.”

“It is true,” Tenya said, coming to stand at Shouto’s side and bowing. “I ordered Deku to leave me and remain at Shouto’s side. I am thankful he had the foresight to wake Shouto. Without his assistance...I cannot say where I would be right now.”

The words had little effect, Izuku gasping as he slammed into the wall again. “So you were of the mind to endanger my Shouto but not call for aid? How can you-”

“Enough!”

Miho’s voice rang through the hallway, batting Enji’s hand away and supporting Izuku when he went to stumble. Her handmaiden was at his side too, only leaving when something was whispered in her ear by Miho. Izuku looked up at the queen in awe, watching her stare down Enji with a look usually reserved for Ochako.

“I do not know how you do things in Endeavour but in Ingenium we respect those who come to our aid. That Shouto went after Tenya is no fault of this boy. He was only following the orders he was given, which was to not leave Shouto’s side.” She tucked Izuku closer to her side. “As quirkless as he is that only put him more in danger. He was wounded for our sons. You should be thankful for his presence.”

That was too much, Izuku wrenching himself away. He furiously shook his head, gritting his teeth as he fell to his knees, bowing before Enji, forehead pressed to the floor. “I-I must agree yo-...Your Majesty. I...I did Sh-...Prince S-Shouto a terrible wrong and I...I should not have presented him to danger. The...The fault was mine. I did no-not think. I...I did not know how to act and so a-acted foolishly. I am...I am t-truly sorry.”

There was a long, drawn-out silence before Enji huffed. “See? A servant that understands its place. Now, I would have Shouto seen too.”

“Of course,” Kaito said. “I will take him and Tenya taken to the best healers immediately. Those that are spare may deal with this boy.”

Enji only stayed long enough to crouch down and pull Izuku’s head up by his collar. “And should I ever see you - a quirkless Yuueian - in my colours again, there will be no one to stop my wrath.”

Izuku didn’t dare move until Enji was gone and Miho’s handmaiden returned, ushering him to his feet and leading him away. “M’lady has prepared a healer for you,” she explained. “Not our top healer, you understand but…”

“I understand,” Izuku assured, being sat on a cot. He was brusquely checked over. The healer provided was nothing like Chiyo; or, at least, their quirks were in no way similar. All he was able to do was numb the pain before stitching the wounds shut. Izuku didn’t mind but he knew he’d have two jagged scars by the time the stitches were removed and he was already wondering how to hide them from his mother. He was given new clothes before being left alone, door locked and effectively trapping him.

And alone the tears came. It was as though the evening’s events had finally caught up with him. He imagined coming minutes later and finding Tenya dead. He imagined having to watch as both Tenya and Shouto were killed in front of him. He imagined himself joining them and then his mother’s grief. He pictured her sobbing as Ingenium sent a courtesy note of, “your servant was lost in combat. Our condolences.” All Might would be similar, hunched over at his desk and crying into his hands as his son was ripped away for good and with the knowledge that it was all his fault, that he could have stopped it.

“Izuku? Hey, prince?”

Izuku’s head snapped up. He was reaching up to scrub his face but the second his eyes landed on Hitoshi the tears started again so he didn’t see the point. Instead he merely held his arms out and was so grateful when Hitoshi stepped into them, sighing dramatically. Aizawa was stationed at the window behind him, clearly how they’d gotten in. His eyes were scouring Izuku’s body piercingly. “Injuries: how many and where?”

He patted his left shoulder and thigh. “They’ve been stitched up. I-...I’ll be fine.”

Aizawa tsk-ed and Hitoshi tugged the collar of his shirt down to get a look. He let out a little hiss but that was all, straightening the shirt back up. “Why are you always getting into trouble?”

Izuku drooped, swallowing thickly. “I...I don’t try. B-But...Stain was...and if I hadn’t, with Shouto...Tenya would have been…And-”

“And things would have been worse,” Aizawa finished. He rolled his eyes when Izuku looked surprised. “I understand the situation better than you so drop the face. But also remember, had you been lost, another kingdom would be in the same situation.”

“I know,” Izuku ground out. “But I...Tenya is my friend.”

Aizawa snorted. “You’re not here to make fri-”

“Except I am!” The sharpness there surprised even Izuku. “Papa told me, has always said from the start, that I am to make friends with who I see fit and nothing more. Our friendship is what w-will unite the kingdoms. Gods know the p-peace treaties have not! So yes,” he growled. “I will risk myself for my friends.”

Hitoshi was looking quite proud of him to be honest and Izuku felt his cheeks flush. He hadn’t meant to say any of that. He sheepishly glanced up, blinking when he saw Aizawa openly grinning.

“Now there’s All Might’s blood. I was wondering when it would turn up.”

Izuku squeaked, burying his face in Hitoshi’s shoulder. Aizawa chuckled, waving a hand and indicating for his son to join him. Hitoshi hesitated, eyes flitting to Izuku pleadingly. And maybe Izuku was shameless but he tightened his grip, burrowing into Hitoshi’s chest. “The door is locked from the outside,” he whispered.

Aizawa stomped over, lightly smacking him up the back of the head before pressing his forehead to Hitoshi’s. “Expect me before sunrise.”

“Thank you Papa,” Hitoshi murmured, leaning into the touch before lying down, dragging Izuku with him. Aizawa threw the blanket over them before climbing out the window. Izuku wasn’t going to lie: with Hitoshi’s heartbeat right under his ear, it was the best he’d slept in a long time. A long time.

 

***

 

Izuku spent a few more days in the healing ward before being allowed back into the castle itself. He confined himself to the servants’ quarters as he hadn’t been given permission to return to the role of Tenya’s manservant. Plus, the more chances he gave himself to be caught alone, the easier it was for Enji or his men to corner him. And the Kings’ Summit in Endeavour had taught him how much of a bad idea that was.

That didn’t mean that he wasn’t sought out one afternoon by the princes when their parents were deep in meetings. Izuku found himself dragged to the palace garden and sat in a tucked away nook, trees swaying gently in the breeze. Tenya looked much better, arm completely healed, while Shouto almost looked worse, eyes dark with lack of sleep. The concerned look Tenya gave him showed Izuku he wasn’t alone in thinking something wasn’t right with their friend.

“Shouto?” he asked softly as he shuffled closer. He went to drop his head onto his friend’s shoulder only to have Shouto pull away sharply. “Sh-Shouto…?”

“Sorry,” Shouto murmured, eyes finding the ground. “But...Please don’t, Deku.”

Izuku chewed on his bottom lip. “May I...ask why?”

Shouto looked startled, then angry. He rested a hand on Izuku’s wound. “You think I do not feel guilt for this?”

Izuku’s head cocked to the side. “It was not your doing. It was...Stain’s.”

“And yet I dragged you out there,” Shouto remarked coldly, Tenya nodding while Izuku sighed.

“Shouto, you do remember me refusing to take no for an answer? That you were adamant I not come as I would get hurt?” Shouto blinked twice. “That I came with you and got hurt…” Izuku shrugged. “If I had listened to you, I would have been fine. As I told your father, the fault is mine.”

“I…” Shouto stared at his hands remorsefully. “That is my second failing. I told you all those years ago that I would never let my father lay a hand on you. I have since broken this promise.”

This time when Izuku reached for him, he was permitted, snuggling in close. “I do not blame you Shouto. You should worry more about looking after yourself than me. And besides, I would endure your father every day if it meant our friendship remained.”

Tenya applauded him while Shouto went a delicate pink. “You always say too much,” he grumbled.

“And yet you never dislike it,” Izuku shot back before turning his attention to his left. “And you, Tenya? How are you faring?”

“Much better!” he replied. “Over these last days I have had much time to reflect upon my actions and realise how rash I had been. I admit...I am glad Stain has finally been caught but I wish it had been through a different means. I should not have put any of you in danger and I realise that forcing you, Deku, to go to Shouto was always going to have the results it did.” Tenya bowed lowly. “I thank you both for coming to my assistance and apologise for being ungrateful that night.”

“I-It’s alright!” Izuku said quickly, hands waving in front of him. “We were...That’s just what friends do! We...We would have been l-lost if not for Shouto’s flames.”

“Indeed,” Tenya agreed. “I was most impressed Shouto!”

That odd look was back on said prince’s face though and oh, that was why. “You...have not accepted it, have you Shouto?” Izuku asked delicately.

“No,” he replied honestly. “I am thankful my quirk was able to help us but if I will continue to use it...That remains unseen.”

Izuku hummed. “Until then, would you like us to not mention it?”

Shouto seemed surprised that his feelings were actually being acknowledged and, gods forbid, considered. “If...If I may ask it of you?”

“It’s no problem for me!” Izuku chirped, beaming when Tenya nodded. “Then it is settled. We must talk of other things instead!”

“Yes, let’s. I should start with you Deku,” Tenya said, Izuku eyeing up his face before deciding it wasn’t anything serious and laying down with his head in Shouto’s lap. Shouto only hesitated a second before starting to comb his hair off his face. “I have had talks with my parents and they intend to return you to Yuuei as soon as your injuries heal. An apology gift is also being given.”

Izuku’s face lit up, beaming at his friends. “I get to see Mama!”

“Don’t sound so happy to leave us,” Shouto tutted, feigning displeasure.

Izuku poked his tongue out. “Soon you shall return to Endeavour and I will be left alone with Tenya. And while Tenya is also my friend, I...I know there is much time needed to rule an island colony. Plus, should I stay any longer, I will be brown as a nut.”

“Your skin does seem to like our weather,” Tenya mused, comparing his forearm to Izuku’s. “You are much darker now than upon our meeting.” He then pulled away, addressing Shouto. “I believe, however, my parents’ gift to your kingdom is still going ahead.”

Shouto scowled. “I do not require such a gift. I would rather be left alone.”

“You do realise,” Izuku cut in, voice a drawl but anger obvious in his pinched brow. “That this gift is a person and that she will undoubtedly have to leave her entire family to serve you. If you truly do ignore her, she will be alone. You hate how loneliness looks on me, I would r-rather you not...push it onto someone else.”

In some ways, Stain did hold an ounce of truth. Izuku was never going to admit that though. But still, sometimes. How hard was it for Tenya and Shouto to realise that they were all of them people?

“I...You are right,” Tenya said, appropriately shamed. “And as such, Shouto, I should like to introduce you to Momo before she becomes a member of your household.”

“Momo,” Shouto repeated, mulling that over. “Yes, please do. Perhaps I can arrange some ways in which to make her comfortable.” He then glanced down and tapped Izuku’s nose. “And you, your cheerfulness is uncalled for.”

Izuku just grinned wider before he suddenly realised something, going to jerk up but Shouto held him down, warning him to mind his injuries. “But if...if Ingenium is to offer Endeavour a gift...th-then…” His heart jumped into his throat. “Was...was Stain truly Yuueian?”

Tenya’s eyes dropped. “No, he...He makes no claims but from his appearance he is of mixed heritage, most of which is Ingeniun. Whether the rest is Riotian or Endeavan is impossible to tell.”

“It could be all three,” Shouto supplied. “But no, your kingdom is not to blame Deku.”

Deku breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “That is good news.”

“Yes, however, we are now also in a bind with Yuuei,” Tenya coughed, cheeks flushed. “As my father has wronged your kingdom in many ways. He took a Yuueian without due cause, imprisoned him, and also allowed said person to be hurt. Servant or not, it looks bad for Ingenium.”

“And this,” Izuku said, getting to his feet as the servant’s chimes began to ring. “Is why it is best not to treat servants as pets.”

With that rather bold statement, Izuku headed for the kitchens, ready to help where needed. And if he bumped into Hitoshi - though he was sure there was no accident there - and passed on details of Stain’s nationality, that was neither here nor there.

 

***

 

The journey back to Yuuei was long but perhaps only so because of how excited Izuku was. He couldn’t wait to be back inside familiar castle walls, to see his father and mother, to be home. The Ingeniun caravan pulled up inside the castle gates, Tsukauchi and others coming to greet them. As it was simply a delivery per se, there was no need for All Might to be there but Izuku was all but bouncing on his toes at the thought of seeing him. Which, clearly, was why Tsukauchi dragged him aside and stood him rather firmly at the side of the courtyard while he made conversation with the Ingeniun party.

When they were invited inside, Izuku made for Tsukauchi’s side. “Why was I-”

“Izuku, return home.”

Izuku reeled, stumbling back a step. “Tsukauchi?”

The manservant pinched the bridge of his nose before taking Izuku’s shoulders in his hands. “Your mother and All Might have had several disagreements these past few months and Inko took it upon herself to return to Shizuoka. Please, go there.”

“Can I…” Izuku hated how his voice wobbled traitorously. “Can I not see Papa first?”

Tsukauchi looked away. “It is...not permitted at present.”

Izuku’s jaw dropped. He then blinked back furious tears. “No! I...What did I...I did all I could!”

Tsukauchi pulled him into his arms. “Izuku, please, I know.” His voice seemed just as strained at Izuku’s. “But Toshinori feels that what you could do was not enough and that the fault is his. And so he wants you safe. Which means you will return to Shizuoka and have talks with your mother.”

Izuku curled in on himself for a moment before, “Excuse me for acting like a spoilt prince!”

The next second he was goddamn sprinting. He heard Tsukauchi call out for him but Izuku was faster. He knew every back way to his father’s chambers and he certainly used them now. Throwing open the door, Izuku watched as Toshinori jerked up in shock before his eyes widened. He couldn’t even stand from his chair before Izuku was in his arms, sobbing loudly.

“Papa, please!

“Izuku, hush!” Tsukauchi warned as he came barrelling after him, slamming the door shut.

Izuku could have pointed out that Tsukauchi just called him Izuku but he didn’t, instead just gripping his father’s coat tighter. “Izuku…”

Please,” Izuku begged. “Don’t send me away so soon! Don’t stop being my father again!”

Toshinori sucked in a sharp inhale, hands finally finding Izuku and drawing him in, smoothing down his hair, rubbing his back. “I c-can’t.

“You can,” Izuku insisted. “I will live in Shizuoka but please do not renounce me. Do not blame yourself for what has happened. As I keep saying, this is all the fault of Stain. Please don’t punish Mama or me.”

“Sire…”

Toshinori sighed, head falling onto Izuku’s shoulder. “You know I can never deny him Tsukauchi.” Toshinori pulled back, letting his eyes meet Izuku’s. He thumbed his tears away sadly. “My boy, I am sorry for hurting you. As you say, these things may be out of control but that does not stop my guilt. And yes, I will permit you to stay but please, think of your mother. She needs you more than I do.”

Izuku hesitated before nodding. He bowed to Tsukauchi. “Sorry, for running like that.”

Tsukauchi gave him a fond, exasperated look. “I have met your parents. I am, at this point, only surprised it took you so long to pull something like that.”

Izuku blushed, bidding his father farewell before being handed a pack with supplies. With that he went on his way. The journey home from the capital was one he was more than familiar with now. The woods near his home felt more frightening than before, as if something was watching him, but Izuku could see paranoia for what it was. After months of being in enemy territory, how could he not? Five days later, it was near mid-morning when he finally reached his village. A smile spread across his face unbidden. Sneaking around the outskirts, Izuku entered his house via the back door. His mother had her back to him as she kneaded dough on the table. Izuku felt his knees tremble.

“Mama.”

Inko whipped around. She tripped over her feet in her haste to ensnare him, sobbing into his neck. Izuku held her just as tightly. “Mama, I’m here. I’m home.”

“I’m glad.”

 

***

 

Some hours later and tucked away in their loft, Inko and Izuku finally got to talk. The afternoon had been full of pretending Izuku had just returned to town having been on trial as a servant in All Might’s household. He had failed and was returning suitably disheartened. Katsuki had teased as much as always but there was something in his eyes. Izuku didn’t blame him. He was sure there was something in his eyes too. These last few months had changed both of them, it seemed.

But alone, with his mother, Izuku was finally able to pick up the conversation he had been desperate to have all day. “Mama...did you...you and Papa fight?”

Inko set her tea down, expression stern. “Izuku, of course we did. You were taken and Toshinori didn’t even put up a fight. I know-” she cut in, holding a hand up when Izuku opened his mouth, “-that doing so would have caused problems but he is your father. If he does not protect you, who will?”

“He was protecting me,” Izuku countered gently. “By keeping me hidden.”

“And I’m sorry Izuku, but that’s no longer good enough. You’re not a mother Izuku; you don’t know this pain. Ask Mitsuki, ask that mother who saved you in Endeavour. Your child is everything. And I cannot lose you simply because a...selfish man throws a tantrum.”

Izuku mulled that over, shuffling closer and letting Inko wrap an arm around him. “Then your argument...how did it end?”

“It...didn’t,” Inko confessed. “We were torn between two options. Toshinori wanted to reveal you as prince, place you on the throne and keep you within the palace walls. I...I wanted to stay here, safe. Safe until you received your quirk and were properly trained.”

Izuku pulled away, folding his arms. “And if I disagree?”

Inko held his gaze easily. “I will not be easily persuaded. Not this time Izuku.”

“What if I disagree with both of you?” Inko fell silent there and Izuku took it as his chance. “I do not want to be prince, not yet. I don’t-...I’m not ready. But...I also cannot leave those I have come to care for. Eijirou and Ochako...I would miss them terribly and Shouto and Tenya...Mama, they still struggle with the concept that I am human sometimes because I lack status! To not give them a good example would...their kingdoms would suffer. And you know Shouto has no good example to follow!”

“Izuku…”

He held up two fingers. “I will remain hidden as you wish for two years. Fifteen is the age in which one can join the Yuueian army. It will be my time as well.”

Inko’s hand slipped into his. “Time to do what?”

Izuku gripped her hand tightly. “I suppose only time will tell.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Pulling back from the hug joyfully, Toshinori sent a grin Prince Eijirou’s way. He beamed back, broader now and hair styled up into thick spikes. King Ishiyama’s hand clapped down on Eijirou’s shoulder, all warmth and pride.

“I’m afraid the contents of our meeting aren’t suitable for Eijirou,” he said. “Is he free to roam Yuuei’s walls Toshinori?”

Toshinori nodded enthusiastically. “Of course! However, if you’d also like I can assign him a page who can show him how we run things here in Yuuei. Obviously, some things must be kept private but…”

“Excellent!” Ishiyama boomed.

Behind them the door to the Great Hall was pushed open, the very person Toshinori wanted to see entering. He bowed lowly though his smile was wide when he looked up. Eijirou matched it perfectly.

“Deku!”

 

***

 

9 Months Earlier

Any other day of the year, Izuku would have grumbled and complained at being woken up before midnight had even come. But today, tonight, it only filled him with excitement because he knew what that meant. Thanking his mother, Izuku made his way over to the clothes left hanging for him. They were much different to the ones he was used it. The boots shone when he slipped them on over his trousers, trousers ordained with buttons made of gold and fastened with a belt of the finest leather. His vest held a stiff collar for once and was a combination of red and blue. Gone was the green he usually wore. Each button of the double breasted vest was carved intricately, Yuuei’s seal staring back at him. Izuku’s hand hesitated when it reached for the hooded yellow cape. This...this was the last piece, the piece that would complete his image.

Swallowing thickly, Izuku tossed the cape over his shoulders. His fingers deftly knotted the ties before stepping out from behind the dressing screen. Inko’s hands flew to her mouth, eyes watering. “You look...Izuku, look at you.”

Izuku did so, glancing at the mirror to his right. In that moment, he understood what Shouto had felt when he’d tried to rip the braid out of his hair. “This isn’t me Mama,” he sighed.

“It’s a part of you,” Inko corrected, smoothing down his cape and adjusting his collar. “It’s a part you’ve never had to play yet. And to think, you could have been born into this.”

Izuku’s nose wrinkled, making her laugh. He held out his arm, smiling when Inko’s slipped into his. “I would have been an awful prince,” Izuku said as they headed towards a special chamber buried deep in the heart of the castle. “My head would have become as big as Kacchan’s.”

“I wouldn’t have let it,” Inko sniffed, Izuku agreeing.

They soon reached the room Toshinori had instructed them to meet him in. Tsukauchi was waiting at the door, bowing before ushering them in. There were very few inside; Aizawa, his father, and an elderly man Izuku didn’t know. Toshinori’s body gave a traitorous shake when it saw him, the king quickly coming over and tilting his chin up gently.

“Royalty suits you Izuku.”

Izuku shied away at the praise, instead turning his gaze to the man he didn’t know. Toshinori followed his line of sight easily enough, making a tiny noise of understanding.

“This is Sorahiko. He is one of my grand advisors. He was...also present when my mother passed her quirk onto me. It felt right that he should be here again.”

Izuku went over with a smile, bowing shortly. “It’s my pleasure to meet you. I’m Izuku.”

“You sure are,” the man grunted, Izuku startling a bit. “You’ve the same face as Toshinori did as kid; too overzealous and too curious for your own good. At least the gods didn’t make you look like a twig that was too big for its own body.”

“S-Sorahiko!” Toshinori stuttered, Inko doing her best to smother a laugh. “Inko…”

“You did rather,” she teased though her gaze was soft. “Now come, it is nearly midnight.”

Yes, midnight, the beginning of Izuku’s birthday. When he would be fifteen and when, according to Yuueian rituals, his quirk would be bestowed unto him. A shiver went down his spine. Finally, ten years after being told of its existence, he would inherit One For All.

Izuku.” Toshinori’s voice was like a whip, his head snapping up. Toshinori stood at the altar in the middle of the room, a goblet filled with red wine in front of him. “Come.”

Izuku stepped closer until he was opposite his father, almost intimidated by the weight of his gaze.

“One For All, a power bestowed down from generation to generation. It marks the true lineage of Yuuei and is a secret known only to a scarce few. It cannot be taken, only willingly given. It was a power used to protect and to serve, to invoke hope and keep evil at bay. By taking this quirk, you accept the responsibility of ruling Yuuei as All Might from this day forth should I fall, abdicate, or until your time comes naturally. Midoriya Izuku, prince of Yuuei, son of Toshinori and Inko, do you accept the burden of One For All?”

Huh, a burden. So it wasn’t a gift at all.

Still, Izuku’s met his father’s gaze unwaveringly. “I accept, All Might.”

Sorahiko approached the table, drawing a ceremonial blade from his robes. He made a shallow cut across Toshinori’s wrist, waiting for several drops of blood to drip into the goblet before covering the wound. The goblet was then handed to Izuku and, of course...blood. All For One was transferred through blood. That made a lot of sense. Not that it also didn’t turn his insides.

Still, the best thing to do was not think about it so he downed the wine as fast as he could. His father’s hands settled on his shoulders, gripping him tightly.

“Your quirk will manifest before sunrise. Rest now, before your training begins.”

 

***

 

“I don’t really...I’m not sure how…”

“Just try,” Toshinori encouraged, demonstrating a punch.

Izuku frowned, breathing deeply before feeling a rush of power flood his hand. Latching onto that feeling, Izuku punched the target in front of him as hard as he could. The target blew apart, shreds flying across the courtyard as wind whipped around them. Izuku’s arm, however, followed suit, bones splintering.

“I-...”

Toshinori scratched his neck sheepishly. “We, uh, will need to work on that.”

“Don’t tell Mama.”

 

***

 

8 Months Earlier

“Izuku…”

Izuku looked just as chastised and embarrassed as he should. His right arm, already held in a crude splint after breaking it not even two weeks ago, was now also sporting two broken fingers. Inko brought him to the table and straightened the digits as best she could, murmuring apologies when Izuku hissed in pain. She strapped them together with a piece of cloth before releasing him with a sigh.

“Izuku, we can’t keep doing this.”

Izuku hastily looked at the ground, eyes burning. “Mama, I’m trying.”

“I know you’re trying,” Inko consoled, taking one of his hands in hers. “But too many more injuries like this and people are going to start asking questions.”

“Kacchan says my clumsiness is finally catching up with me,” Izuku offered.

“And will he continue to say that the fifth, sixth time your arm is broken?”

Izuku glared at his lap; not angry at her but more at himself. “But Mama, I need to control this power.”

“Toshinori offered you to board at the castle while you trained. I’m sure the offer is still there.”

He shook his head. “I don’t want to burden Papa. I want…” Izuku gave her a sad smile. “I want to prove to him that I can do this. I want to make this power mine, in my own way.”

Inko agreed with the sentiment but perhaps not the method. Without Chiyo to help, One For All was a ticking clock in her son’s body, ready to explode at any moment. She’d seen him with broken legs, shattered arms, skin the most gruesome shades of red and purple. At times he’d reminded her of one of Yuuei’s spies, all gnarled and discoloured skin. But Izuku was right about one thing: he needed to learn to control his quirk.

“Izuku,” Inko said when she saw him go to stand. She shifted onto the ground by the hearth and guided him to sit with her. “When you use your quirk, how does it feel?”

Izuku mulled that over, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Like...Like there is lightning under my skin and it...it just explodes from me hand. It...I guess it rushes. It shoots from, well from everywhere and it’s almost like being on fire.”

Inko frowned, matching his frown perfectly. “That’s a violent image Izuku.”

“It’s a violent quirk,” Izuku pointed out.

“Is it?” Izuku jumped there. “Yes, it’s strong but there are other elements. All Might is fast as well as strong. And his fist isn’t strong Izuku, every part of him is.” Inko placed a hand on her heart. “My quirk is a part of me as much as my blood is. I can’t stop my body from pumping blood everywhere, it just does.”

“But…” Izuku was clearly processing that but also not sure either. “Your quirk isn’t always on.”

“I suppose,” Inko agreed.

They sit in silence for a minute. “Mama?” Izuku asked quietly. “What does your quirk feel like?”

Inko blinked. “Well, I don’t actually know. It’s almost...I suppose I don’t think about it anymore. If I could describe it,” she added when Izuku looked disheartened, “I’d say it simply feels like reaching with my arm. It feels like a part of me. I don’t have to control it; we’re not at war. It’s my quirk - I own it; it doesn’t own me.”

“Like Shouto…” Izuku breathed.

Inko didn’t know exactly which part of Prince Shouto Izuku was talking about but she thought herself able to make a rather educated guess. Smiling sadly, she rubbed her son’s spine soothingly. “How about, for now, instead of using your quirk to punch, try to run it through your whole body at once? Imagine a river inside you; soft and tranquil but also roaring when the time comes.”

“Oh!” Izuku said in excitement. “That-...That sounds good Mama! And I-”

“It would mean starting small,” Inko cut in sternly, making sure Izuku held her gaze. “Because I am not having your entire body wrapped in bandages.”

But!

“Izuku, a stitch in time saves nine,” she scolded, Izuku pouting but reluctantly nodding. “Start small, with the basics. From there, the rest will come. Now, practise while I prepare supper.”

 

***

 

It didn’t happen overnight but a month later Izuku came to her, grin wide and all his bones in tact. “Mama, look!”

Just as he’d described, green lightning crackled over his skin before settling in. It went from head to toe evenly. And when he moved...Inko sucked in a breath. He wasn’t as fast as Toshinori, not by a long shot, but it was there. One For All...it was becoming Izuku’s.

 

***

 

5 Months Earlier

The sun was just starting to dip over the horizon. Izuku was sitting on the outcrop he and Katsuki had been sitting on ever since they’d discovered it ten years ago. Endeavour’s mountain range gleamed in the distance and Izuku found himself wondering what was happening beyond that border. Was Shouto doing well? Were things stable? Was war-mongering still being done in every council meeting?

A faint crack from behind him had Izuku turning around, grinning when he saw Katsuki approaching. His friend saw his smile and scowled but that didn’t stop him from throwing himself down next to Izuku. “The view’s still shit.”

Izuku smothered a laugh. “It’s a wonderful view,” he argued lightly before pulling his eyes from the horizon and devoting his full attention to Katsuki. “It’s good to see you again Kacchan. How was your orientation?”

Katsuki shrugged stiffly. “They make out us joining the army is some big deal or shit but you don’t move to the capital until eighteen. We’re just...on standby, doing the odd training camp and shit. It’s a waste of fucking time.”

“The villages need you,” Izuku explained. “If Yuuei is not at war...what need do we have for an army? If you can spend time with your family, I-I think you should.”

Katsuki eyed him up. “Gods, you’re such a sop! Look, I get Auntie Inko’s great and all but shit Deku. I’ve been training to be in this army my whole life - it’s my dream. To be a hero. And what about you?” he challenged, voice sharp and snappish. “You potter after your mother like a lost sheep. Have you even a plan? Or will you be a humble farmer your whole life?”

Izuku picked at the grass by his feet. “There-...There is nothing w-wrong with being a farmer Kacchan.”

He then yelped as he was punched none too gently. “As if you would be,” Katsuki ground out. “You...you’ve always got that weird look in your eyes. Gives me the creeps Deku.”

“Kacchan…”

Katsuki ignored him, eyes flitting to the horizon as he stood. “Them Endeavan fucks can start a war whenever they want. I’m ready.”

And just like that, Izuku was on his feet too, livid. “You would risk the lives of hundred because you want to fight? How immature Katsuki.”

Katsuki reeled. He then gathered the front of Izuku’s shirt in his fist, dragging him close. “You call me that again and I’ll end you. Don’t forget, Deku, you’re quirkless. If war were to break out, you would be the most useless of us all.” He shoved him away, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “And for the record, I don’t wish war on us. I simply said I was ready.”

Izuku watched him go, hands twitching at his sides. One day, unfortunately, he felt they would all have to be something more than ready.

 

***

 

3 Months Earlier

“So,” Mitsuki said slowly. “You’re actually finally doing it. You’re gonna leave us all behind and move back to that fancy capital.”

“Mitsuki…” Inko murmured, worriedly taking her hand. “This...I love this village; I was truly happy here. But...I-Deku, Deku has been offered a position in the palace and if he did so...I-...there would be more opportunities for myself as well.”

Mitsuki nodded, pulling her hand away and looking around the cottage that was nearly empty at this point. The property would remain Inko’s but she knew her and Izuku would scarcely use it. After Izuku and Toshinori had decided to enlist Izuku as a page, she knew Shizuoka would become a distant memory. A good one, but a memory nonetheless as every day brought them closer to Izuku’s lineage being revealed.

“Inko?”

Inko turned around, only to freeze at Mitsuki’s face, which was harder than she’d ever seen. “M-Mitsuki? Wh-wha-”

“You ever intend on telling me who you are?” All the colour drained from Inko’s face, Mitsuki unflinching. “Because I ain’t buying what you’re selling. I did, at first. Husband killed in battle, heavily pregnant and just needing shelter. But you must think me an idiot if you don’t think I’d notice.” She leant closer. “Your kid’s name...it isn’t even Deku, is it?”

“No, it...it is,” Inko lied, sliding herself back into her chair and staring at her clasped hands.

“Yeah, don’t believe you,” Mitsuki said boredly. “At first I thought you stumbled on it ‘cause you hated it but your husband had picked it so, you know. And too right to, it’s a shit name. But you still stumble. Your kid’s fifteen Inko. Only reason you’re still tripping up on his name is if it’s not his. Or at least, not what you call him elsewhere. When you go to the capital, what’s his name?”

“His name is Deku. That’s who he is,” Inko said firmly because it was. It was who Izuku was because it needed to be.

Mitsuki eyed her up for a long time before getting up from the table. Inko thought she was going to leave but instead she merely flipped the lock on the door and somehow that was worse. Mitsuki help up a hand when Inko went to speak and she was surprisingly calm, which, again was unsettling.

“Look, I’m not expecting you to talk so just listen. You know what really got me thinking? When Deku went “missing” when those fires came through. Inko, I’ve seen you beside yourself when Deku and Katsuki come back a few seconds after dark. You’d never leave this village without him in tow, especially not with an incoming wildfire. Then he turns up with Katsuki and Masaru and you don’t even look surprised. What do you think I’m gonna think Inko?”

Inko dropped her head into her hands because she was right, she was.

“Then you tell me Deku’s gone to do some...internship or shit in the capital and you spend everyday on the verge of tears when you should have been fine. You don’t match where you say your son is. Which makes me think he was taken or hurt. And why would he be? He’s just a country brat like mine. But...well, wanna know something Katsuki said to me once?”

“Please don’t,” Inko whispered, chest filled with lead. “I...I already know. What...what Deku told him.”

“So it’s true,” Mitsuki mused. “Your little quirkless kid. He’s really...he’s All Might’s son?”

Inko didn’t answer; couldn’t.

“Makes sense. I mean, you turned up when we were at war with that flame bastard so...He not a fan of All Might’s kids?”

“M-Mitsuki!” Inko spluttered. “He-...Izuku is the only-!”

“Izuku?” Mitsuki repeated, Inko going white. “So that’s his name huh? I had the first letter right if nothing else. And All Might’s not one for sleeping around is he? What’s that make you then? His wife?” Inko went red, Mitsuki’s eyes widening before cackling. “Holy shit, you are! Does that...are you the queen or something?”

Inko blinked. “Pardon?”

Mitsuki howled then, hand slapping the table. “You never even thought of that, did you! Sorry Inko but if you marry a king and have a prince for a son, you become the queen. Even I know that!”

“I...I…” Inko didn’t know what to say. “I’ve never...Oh, Mitsuki!”

She just laughed more, head craning back when the door was tried and then knocked on almost questioningly. “Mama?”

“Oh, hang on!” Inko called, shooting Mitsuki a harried look before opening the door. Izuku looked around, puzzled, before waving at Mitsuki and letting himself inside. Inko threw her hands in the air in defeat, pointing at Mitsuki. “Izuku, please introduce yourself.”

M-mama!” Izuku shrieked before realisation sunk in. “Oh...I...because Kacchan?”

“I always told you that would come back to bite you,” Inko scolded as she placed the kettle over the fire.

Izuku scratched his neck sheepishly before straightening up, Inko feeling a sense of pride in how surprised Mitsuki looked. Yes, Izuku had presence when he wasn’t Deku. His entire personality changed and you couldn’t help but be drawn in by him.

Izuku bowed deeply. “Prince Izuku of Yuuei, son of All Might. It’s an honour to meet you.”

Mitsuki whistled lowly. She raised an eyebrow at Inko. “They teach him that at prince school?”

Inko laughed. “He has etiquette classes, yes. A lot is from observation though,” Inko murmured, tucking a lock of Izuku’s hair behind his ear. “He’s a fine young man.”

Mama,” Izuku groaned, shying away and cheeks heating up.

“You got a secret quirk too?” Mitsuki asked.

Izuku hesitated and then realised that that was answer enough, chuckling nervously. “Uh, yes, but...well, it’s...my f-family are known to get their quirks late so I...I have only had my quirk some six months.”

Izuku took his leave, moving over to the kitchen and starting to put away the groceries he had bought from the market. Mitsuki watched him with a look Inko had never seen before, barely blinking when a mug of tea was placed in front of her.

“Mitsuki?” Inko prompted.

Her friend startled a bit before waving a hand. “I guess...look, I can’t see him as a king yet but you know, I like that he’s a country boy. He’s got a real idea of what life is like, not some pampered palace prince. If nothing else, I’m glad for that.”

Inko smiled. “Yes, I am too.”

 

***

 

Izuku helped Masaru secure the last pack to his horse, giving a triumphant sound when done. Masaru’s hand settled on his shoulder, squeezing gently. “You will take care of yourself, won’t you Deku?”

Izuku smiled sadly, leaning into Masaru’s side. At least Mitsuki hadn’t told anyone what she knew. “I’ll try.”

Masaru laughed. “Yes, I’m sure you will. You always did seem a magnet for trouble.”

Izuku’s smile threatened to drop there but he managed to hold it, letting himself be drawn into a brief hug. His eyes then found Katsuki, standing gruffly against the side of his house and vehemently looking away. “Will...Kacchan is…” Izuku wrung his hands together. “I...with me gone there is no one Kacchan’s…”

“He’ll be fine,” Masaru assured, though he didn’t sound too convinced either. “Plus, in three years he’ll be right back at your side. Three years is not so long.”

Except it was.

Excusing himself, Izuku jogged across the square. Katsuki saw him coming and scowled, though he didn’t try to leave. Reaching his side, Izuku paused before reaching inside his shirt and pulling out the shell necklace he’d made in Ingenium. Before Katsuki had a chance to think, Izuku slipped it over his head.

“K-keep that until you see me again?” he requested.

Katsuki slapped his hand away. “Why would I do that? You think I want a shitty-”

“Kacchan, please?”

“Fine, whatever,” Katsuki grumbled, slipping the necklace under his shirt. He then gave an awkward, aborted motion before fisting his hand in Izuku’s hair. The next second they were forehead to forehead, Izuku’s breath leaving him. He hadn’t...he and Katsuki had never...Izuku then took a risk and pressed his nose to Katsuki’s. Katsuki flinched but didn’t pull away.

“Kacchan,” Izuku whispered.

“Just...I’ll see you at the damn castle,” he ground out, finally pushing away and storming off.

Izuku couldn’t help but smile brightly. Yes, yes he would. Summer training camp would be soon and, if Izuku was lucky, he might be able to sneak away for an afternoon.

 

***

 

2 Months Earlier

Izuku barely remembered to say a ‘thank you’ to Tsukauchi as the manservant left. All his belongings from Shizuoka were in a single trunk in the middle of the room he had stayed in ever since he’d started visiting the capital. His mother’s belongings had since been removed, moved to chambers closer to his father’s but Izuku wasn’t naive enough believe said chambers would ever be used. They were more for show than anything.

Izuku’s own chambers had been added a little to as well. The desk was new, now standing at an adult height. The old rug had been replaced and a tapestry hung above the hearth. A map of the kingdoms had been framed across from his bed and new, more page appropriate clothes were in his wardrobe. Izuku got about adding his own things to the room, personalising it a little more. Trinkets he’d picked up over the years from the other kingdoms were arranged above the fireplace, a blanket Mitsuki had made draped over his bed. His quill and parchments rolls were added to the desk, as well as an ornate owl Katsuki had whittled.

“All settled in my boy?”

“Papa!”

Toshinori laughed as Izuku threw his arms around his waist. He returned the hug in kind, leaning down to press their foreheads together. “You seem to have made yourself at home. Do your chambers suit?”

“Papa, this is my first time even having chambers,” Izuku laughed. “Everything suits.”

Toshinori flushed a little, only dropping it when Inko came in, an arm coming to wrap around her shoulders. Inko slotted in as if she belonged there, taking in Izuku’s room with a nod. “Very becoming Izuku.”

Izuku beamed, already looking forward to the day he would invite Eijirou or Shouto here. It wouldn’t be for awhile - after the next Kings’ Summit most likely - but still, he could dream. There was also Hitoshi. He could bring Hitoshi here!

“Whatever you’re thinking of, there will be time for that later,” Toshinori chided gently, ruffling Izuku’s hair. “For now, show me how your quirk is coming along? Your letters are very promising.”

“It was Mama who helped me,” Izuku reminded, slipping into place at his side as they made for the training grounds. Inko excused herself to go and help the seamstresses while Toshinori picked up Aizawa. Hitoshi was nowhere in sight but there would be time to meet him soon enough. Tsukauchi was already at the training field when they arrived, bidding the last of the heroes farewell and ensuring their privacy. Toshinori powered up as he crossed the field.

“Come at me young Izuku.”

Izuku took a deep breath. He centred himself before letting One For All rush through his veins. It felt as exhilarating as it had the first time, but also more familiar, more like riding a horse than stumbling through the dark. He felt in control. He wasn’t operating at One For All’s maximum output, maybe only one fifth of it, but it was enough. Enough for now until he trained more and could risk accidents happening.

It was also enough for him to push off and suddenly be behind his father...or All Might, as he was right now.

All Might barely even blinked, whirling around and slamming him into the ground. Izuku yelped, dodging the next punch and shooting off one of his own. All Might took it as though it was nothing, so fast when he moved that Izuku could barely track him. He tried though and they sparred back and forth and back and forth until Izuku was a mass of sweat and his bones were starting to creak under the strain. The next blow sent him rolling across the dirt and when he went to stand, something in his thigh gave a warning throb.

He held up a hand, All Might pausing. “I’m sorry,” he said, quirk deactivating. “B-but that’s...I’ll injure myself if I…”

“Good,” Aizawa said before Toshinori could speak. “Kid knows his limits. No point breaking him every time merely in the name of training.”

Toshinori nodded, holding out a hand and pulling Izuku up. He faltered a little when he saw Izuku’s mangled fingers for the first time, never healed properly after he’d shattered them in Shizuoka. Toshinori thumbed them delicately. “I’m sorry our quirk did this to you Izuku.”

Izuku shrugged. “Kacchan burnt himself several times with his. Eijirou’s scar is from his quirk. It happens.”

Toshinori frowned in thought. “I suppose so. Still, I am glad we have Chiyo. Sometimes you must push yourself beyond what you can handle to improve.”

Izuku nodded, already muttering away to himself about things he could improve on and new strategies to implement. He was brought back by Toshinori calling his name, jumping ever so slightly. He was then taken aback by the large smile on his face and the obvious pride there.

“Your control is astounding Izuku, I hardly recognised you. To think, you have come so far in just seven months. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am.”

Izuku flushed right to the tips of his ears, squeaking and attempting to hide in his collar. “Th-thank you…” he stammered.

Toshinori laughed, kissing the top of his head and then taking his leave, already deep in conversation with Tsukauchi. Izuku received a single nod from Aizawa that had him ducking down again. He scurried off to find his mother instead. At least she would not embarrass him!

 

***

 

Present

Eijirou waited until the doors to the Great Hall were shut before whisking Izuku up. Izuku laughed joyfully though he playfully pushed at Eijirou’s arms until he was put down. Eijirou held his fist out, grinning when Izuku bumped his own against his. He then returned in kind with the Yuueian greeting. “You’re so tall now,” Izuku breathed, measuring the height difference between them with his hand. “You grew without me Eijirou.”

Eijirou laughed, punching his shoulder and then apologising as Izuku was knocked off balance. “Sorry Deku but I think it was you who forgot to grow!”

Izuku pouted, hooking their arms together and leading him towards the palace grounds. “I’ve grown plenty! And y-you will find, should we spar now, I...I will be stronger too!”

“Is that so?” Eijirou teased, wrapping a hand around his bicep and raising an eyebrow when his fingers nearly met.

“Oh hush!” Izuku scolded, finding a place on the grass and inviting Eijirou to join him. “Sorry if I seem presumptuous in assuming you do not wish to be shown our council’s workings.”

“Another time,” Eijirou said with a wave of his hand. “For now, three years have passed. I want to know everything! And you are a page now! Wait until I tell Shouto; he’ll be thrilled!”

His father won’t be,’ Izuku thought but didn’t say. And so he settled in, regaling tales of his time in the countryside. His quirk went unmentioned but there was plenty to tell besides that. Eijirou was full of stories too; new guards he was personally training up, his own dragon training going well, the new mines they had made in the mountains to the south. He had seen Ochako recently but not Shouto. Tenya was scheduled to visit soon but was often busy as he was now the crown prince as opposed to merely a prince.

“Have you ever…”

Eijirou trailed off, smiling tightly when Izuku cocked his head to side and preferring to flop onto his back, staring at the clouds. “Eijirou,” Izuku huffed. “You cannot s-start such a sentence and not...and not finish it.”

“Perhaps it is too personal,” Eijirou mumbled.

Izuku gave that some thought before nodding, lying down and tucking his head into Eijirou’s shoulder. “Is this okay?”

“Of course,” Eijirou replied, finding his arm and curling a hand around his wrist. They lay in silence for the longest time, listening to the birds sing and the insects chirp. Izuku had near dozed off before Eijirou spoke again, lulled by the warm weather and sunlight caressing his skin. “I...spoke with Dad some months back. There was an issue I was struggling with and he helped me understand it. I don’t...I’m unsure if others will understand it though.”

Izuku frowned, rolling over and propping his chin atop Eijirou’s chest. “Try me. You know I am not one to judge.”

Eijirou held his gaze before sighing, bopping him playfully. “Deku, you’re too good!” Izuku laughed and Eijirou joined in. “I just...have you a preference, for men or women?”

Izuku blinked. “You mean...as if to marry?”

“Yeah.”

“I...don’t,” Izuku admitted. It was a conversation he’d had with his mother near two years ago now. “I am...um, shall we say, attracted to the person? I...it doesn’t matter to me which they are.”

“Really?” Eijirou asked in disbelief, nearly exploding in excitement when Izuku nodded. He tugged them both up until they were sitting, hands gesturing wildly. “See, Dad and I talked and I told him I preferred men. I’m glad to know I’m not alone! I didn’t...I was a little scared to tell this to someone outside of family but…” He grinned. “Thanks Deku!”

Izuku just dropped his head onto Eijirou’s shoulder. “I will always support my friends as best I can.”

Eijirou chuckled. “I’ve half a mind to marry you but you’re far too weedy.”

“I told you, I am not!” Izuku cried, outraged. “And besides, we are too alike. Also, your teeth frighten me.”

Eijirou’s mouth dropped open. “Deku!” he screamed. “You get cheekier each time we meet,” he groused and in that moment he was so familiar…

Izuku then perhaps was gifted by the worst idea he’d ever had...and possibly also the best. “Come,” he said, dragging Eijirou to his feet and leading him towards the training grounds. “There is someone I think you should meet.”

“Are they nice?” Eijirou asked warily.

Izuku threw his head back and laughed. “No, they’re an arse!”

Reaching the training grounds, Izuku waited until the knights in training were dismissed for a break before clambering up the fence railings. He cupped his hands around his mouth before calling out, shifting his arms to wave.

“Oi, Kacchan!”

Katsuki pulled himself away from the ground and Izuku bit back a grin when he heard Eijirou’s sharp inhale. Because yes, Izuku was aware of how Katsuki looked. Explosions were darting in his palms as he approached, Eijirou breathing something along the lines of “amazing” under his breath, though those explosions quickly stopped at the sight of Eijirou. No doubt his nature of clothing indicated he was foreign and the style showed his rank; clearly high.

Still, that didn’t stop Katsuki from addressing Izuku with disdain. “What do you want shitstain?”

Izuku was nonplussed, gesturing between them. “Your Highness, this is Bakugou Katsuki of Shizuoka, up and coming knight, winner of the Yuuei Sports Festival some seven years running. Kacchan, this is Prince Eijirou of Riot.”

Katsuki, to his credit, barely battered an eyelid. “Prince huh? What brings you here?”

Izuku went to scold him but Eijirou just grinned, clearly liking Katsuki’s spirit. “I came to oversee your training.” He pointed at Izuku. “Deku here gave you a good word.”

Katsuki frowned at that before abruptly shoving Izuku and sending him sprawling into the mud below. Izuku sighed dramatically, rolling his eyes at Eijirou to show him he didn’t really mind. He hadn’t expected any different to be honest. He then watched as Katsuki snapped his fingers in Eijirou’s face, drawing the prince’s attention back. “Eyes on me, prince.”

With that, he walked away and joined the other knights as training resumed. “Fuck me…” Eijirou breathed.

Izuku smothered a laugh. Well, that had gone well.

 

***

 

In hindsight, his plan may have actually worked a little too well because when Izuku went to collect Eijirou the next day, he was met with furious apologies and the admission that Katsuki had offered to give him a tour of the knights’ barracks during summer training and their routine for the day. Izuku stared after him blankly before shrugging. Eijirou could thank him later.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Izuku looked up from his studies at the sound of his father’s voice. Inko barely looked up from where she was sitting by the fire knitting as Toshinori and Tsukauchi entered, too busy counting stitches.

“-needs to be done,” Toshinori said, removing his cape and hanging it up. “We haven’t met with King Seiten in near two years.”

Izuku sat straighter at that. “Uravity? Are you going there Papa?”

Toshinori sent him a smile. “I should think so.”

“Can I come?” Izuku asked, successfully halting all conversation and making his father frown. “I’ve never been to Uravity! A-and Ochako and I, we...we have not met in three years.”

“There is no need for you to come,” his father said, pasting a smile on his face.

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “There was no need for me to go to Endeavour and yet I went. This is Uravity. Surely I can-“

Izuku.”

Izuku’s mouth snapped shut, hurt.

“Oh Toshinori please,” Inko chided, both men whipping around. “I know what happened in Ingenium spooked you - it frightened us all - but Izuku is right; this is Uravity. They are good and kind.”

She held up a hand when Toshinori went to speak, making him balk and making Tsukauchi hastily smother a laugh.

“Plus, Izuku needs to maintain the bonds he’s formed so far. He cannot be seen to have favouritism by seeing everyone except Ochako.” She spread her hands. “At the end of the day...you can’t protect him Toshinori, you can only prepare him.”

Toshinori’s shoulders dropped and he nodded. He turned to Izuku to apologise only for Inko to cut him off, voice stern.

“And you, Izuku. Your father is the king; he has much more to worry about than fulfilling your every whim.”

With that, she left, muttering something about bathing. Izuku and Toshinori exchanged looks.

“Mama scares me sometimes.”

Toshinori nodded solemnly. “Imagine if I had put her on the throne.”

Tsukauchi laughed, patting them both on the back sympathetically. “If you had, I’m sure war would be a thing of the past and King Enji would be nothing but a pile of dust.”

Horrifyingly, he was probably right.

 

***

 

In the end they all went, part of a larger Yuueian party. Uravity was to hold the next Kings’ Summit in the approaching year and Toshinori wanted to strengthen their kingdoms’ relationship before then. Envoys went back and forth between the five kingdoms but given Uravity’s position - south and only sharing a border with Yuuei - they were the hardest kingdom to consult with. All visiting parties had to go through Yuuei or via the sea. Which was another reason as to why Toshinori was always so determined to be on Uravity’s good side.

Approaching the capital, Inko didn’t even bother telling Izuku to keep his head inside the carriage, knowing he wouldn’t. His curiosity was running rampant and she supposed it made sense; Uravity was the last on his list. He had seen Endeavour and Riot, and Ingenium, though perhaps not under the circumstances he would have liked.

“It’s so beautiful Mama,” Izuku breathed, making her smile and causing the other servants to chuckle lightly. Amongst them, Izuku was well liked and his wonderstruck attitude was often why.

But there was no denying that Uravity was beautiful. It had forests the same as Yuuei but its buildings were made of ornately carved wood with stone walls to mark the boundaries. The roofs were shingles rather than thatch and each house had a tiny garden growing around its doorstep. There were water features and immaculate stone gardens, the castle ahead gilt with gold only across the top, making it almost shine. Izuku’s breath caught and Inko didn’t blame him one bit.

Naturally, once they arrived Inko lost him though a glance at Toshinori got her a smile that showed he at least knew where Izuku was and that wherever that was was out of danger. She caught the briefest flash of green to her left and, of course, there was Izuku being dragged away by Ochako, the princess now having two servants on her heels. They were at that age, Inko supposed. She smiled and left him to it.

 

***

 

“Come Deku,” Ochako said, pulling him into the gardens. “I can’t believe it has been three years since we last met! You’re taller than me now!”

“Hardly,” Izuku countered blandly, carefully extracting his arm and taking her hand instead. “You will pull my arm right off one of these days.”

“Ah, m’lady! Surely this servant cannot-”

“Oh hush Yuuga,” Ochako tutted, Izuku peering around her to find said servant. He’d never heard such a thick Urati accent before. “For one, Deku is a close friend of mine and two, if Prince Eijirou is to be believed, he is also no longer a servant.” Ochako took in Izuku’s clothes with a single look. “He must be right; you dress differently now.”

Izuku smiled, adjusting his waistcoat self-consciously. “Well, yes. I-...I am a page now.”

“That’s wonderful!” Ochako gushed, waving her servants away and leading Izuku to a small pagoda, sitting them both by the water. “So tell me, how is Yuuei? I have to know everything because I am still mad you went on adventures with Tenya and Shouto without me!”

Izuku spluttered. “Th-that was hardly an adventure! I blame Tenya entirely!”

Ochako burst out laughing. “I imagine you would! But still, you must have some interesting news?”

That made him pause, thinking hard. “I’m afraid I cannot think of anything. I have lived in the castle not five months yet. I assure you, my lowly village is not one for excitement.”

“I suppose so,” Ochako said, clearly a tad disappointed. “I just...it’s nice to hear stories that are not simply ways to boast power and such,” she explained when Izuku turned downcast.

Izuku made a helpless gesture. “The only news I have is not mine to tell as it involves people other than me and whose permission I do not have.”

Ochako’s eyes lit up and she tugged on his arm playfully. “Deku, come on!” she wheedled. “Tell me something at least!”

He poked his tongue out at her; for all the good it did, he only got a laugh in return. “Well, although I know you don’t like him, I am happy because I’ve managed to arrange quite the courtship for Kacchan.”

He was right, Ochako scowling at the name, but her face softened seconds later. “He has found someone special? Hopefully they will make him less terrible.”

“I’m sure he will,” Izuku said, placing the emphasis exactly where he wanted, Ochako’s head shooting up.

“He?” she repeated. “For some reason that makes me happy. And perhaps a little more inclined to celebrate him starting a courtship.” Her brown eyes then flicked to his. “And you?”

Izuku shook his head. “Asides from Kacchan, there are few I know my own age. And less still that are of a low enough status.”

“Status isn’t everything,” Ochako sniffed, getting to her feet and placing her hands on her hips. “And you most certainly did not hear this from me but there’s a certainly icy monarch who has perhaps admitted an attraction or two in your direction.”

Izuku all but tumbled off the bench, eyes comically wide. “Sh-Shouto?!”

“Did I say that?” Ochako hummed, feigning obliviousness. “I don’t think I said that.”

Izuku went to push harder - because honestly, excuse him? - but he was interrupted by rain starting to fall. He heard it first on the stepping stones, then clattering down on the roof. But what drew his attention the most was the way Ochako sighed with something akin to relief.

“Ochako?”

She sent him a look that was somewhat sad, prompting Izuku to come to her side and wrap an arm around her. Ochako folded easily enough, head resting on his shoulder. “I...I have mentioned this before but Uravity, we are a poor nation. While we may have livestock, our crops are often weak and failing, our soil not suited for it.” She gestured around them. “Do you think our gardens are rock by choice?”

Izuku cringed. “I...I thought they were.”

“Good,” Ochako said with a firm nod. “That is what you’re supposed to think. It also doesn’t make it any less of a lie.”

When he looked at the rain this time, Izuku saw it in a different light. “Rain is...good here, isn’t it? Welcome, n-needed even.”

“Yes, but we bear it as we must.”

Izuku shifted his weight awkwardly, hesitating before saying, “The next Kings’ Summit is here. Is hosting it really-”

Ochako stopped him with a hand. She pressed a kiss to his cheek to show she wasn’t mad, only upset by her own circumstances. “Yes. To say no only reveals our weakness. We will, all of us, go without for awhile and our position as a wealthy nation will remain.”

“What use is wealth if the people are unhappy?” Izuku murmured, shaking his head when Ochako’s lips pursed. “I was...not thinking of Uravity. I...Endeavour is by far the wealthiest nation - they strive to make that known - and yet their people...they are the saddest I’ve ever met. Wealth, I think, isn’t everything.” He sent Ochako a smile. “Look at me. I am p-poor and I’m plenty happy.”

“You’re too happy,” Ochako corrected teasingly. “And of course, as always, you speak the truth Deku. One day,” she said, wagging a finger in his face. “I’ll make you an advisor of my own. I could use a head like yours.”

“Does it get to stay attached to its body? I’m rather fond of it.”

Ochako gaped for a moment before swatting him. “Go,” she said fondly. “I have to prepare for the evening meal and I’m sure I’ve kept you from All Might long enough.”

Izuku bowed, making his way back through the gardens only to be pulled up by the second servant he had seen with Ochako earlier. She reminded him of a frog and her nature seemed kind enough. “I know where your rooms have been set up. Is it possible for us to speak there tonight, after my lady has retired?”

Izuku answered with a ‘yes’ because, really, what choice did he have?

 

***

 

The rain had laid off for the evening but returned with a vengeance as the hour approached midnight. Izuku slipped out of his futon and made for the pathways that surrounded every building and led to the garden. Already waiting for him was Ochako’s servant, dressed for bed and simply admiring the rain. She gave him a smile when he approached.

“Tsuyu,” she introduced, holding out a hand.

Izuku shook it easily. “Deku. Can I help you with something?”

“Are you a Yuueian spy?”

The question was so blunt it made Izuku stumble slightly. He then quickly shook his head, hands flailing. “O-of course not! Why...why would you...I...I a-am simply friends with-”

“Servants aren’t often friends with royalty,” Tsuyu pointed out, Izuku sobering.

“Yes, I...I suppose so.” He tugged his clothes tighter around his body, warding off the cold. “I...I was lucky enough to be provided as an escort for Prince Eijirou some ten years ago now. He...took a liking to me and I-...it’s only because of that that I know Ochako at all. A-all Might...he knows nothing of what we speak of.”

Tsuyu met his gaze levelly. “How can I know?”

“You can’t,” Izuku said with a shrug because it was true. “But...as an Urati, I’m sure you know of your...uh, your…”

“Our failing crops and consequent lack of wealth,” Tsuyu provided ineloquently.

“Yes, that,” Izuku coughed. “And yet...if All Might knew, surely he would...well, he would either lessen your trade burdens or...or h-heighten them so as to reduce you to poverty. He has done neither...because he d-does not know. I am Ochako’s friend,” he said sincerely. “That is all I have ever been and all I ever hope to be. To be that, I-...That makes me lucky enough.”

A hand suddenly curled around his, Tsuyu smiling, eyes crinkled shut in happiness. “You have an honest face Deku. I think we’re lucky to have you too.”

He made to protest when footsteps came from behind them. Snatching his hand back, Izuku turned around, sighing in relief when he saw it was only his mother. “Iz-...Isn’t it late for you to be out, Deku?”

Izuku swore his heart nearly jumped out of his chest at the slip and from the wideness of his mother’s eyes, she’d done the same. Luckily Tsuyu didn’t seem to notice, apologising to Inko and then disappearing down a walkway. Inko waved him back inside, sliding the door shut.

“I take it you’re making more friends?” she asked as Izuku crawled back into bed.

“No, just people making sure I’m nothing more than a friend.”

Inko paused for a minute before realising she’d taken that not in the way Izuku had meant. Chastising herself, Inko settled down next to Izuku and, even though he was far too old for it, she rubbed his back until he was lulled to sleep. Despite everything, he would always be her little boy.

 

***

 

They stayed in Uravity a good month before returning home. Izuku now had some Urati trinkets to add to his collection, as well as new friends in the form of Tsuyu and Yuuga. Yuuga took some getting used to but it wasn’t anything Izuku couldn’t handle. That wasn’t to say he didn’t prefer the company of Tsuyu. She was more down to earth and less flamboyant with a distaste for veiled speech. He understood why Ochako had chosen her to be her handmaiden. Together they would be an unstoppable force.

All of this Izuku was regaling to Hitoshi as they sat on one of the battlements. The sky above them was dark, the day over and their duties done. “And you?” Izuku enquired, head thudding back against the stone wall and staring up at the stars. “Have you been to Uravity?”

Hitoshi shook his head. “Papa keeps me within Yuuei; his duties rarely take him outside anyway. I’ve only been to Ingenium, which you know.” He stretched his legs out, ankles crossing leisurely. “It’s not like I’m interested anyway. I like Yuuei just fine.”

Izuku’s bottom lip jutted out ever so slightly. “But aren’t you-...Surely you’re curious?”

That got him nothing but a pair of rolled eyes. “There are lots of things I’m curious about. What lies beyond these borders isn’t one of them.”

“Huh, I never thought of that,” Izuku admitted, shivering slightly and so shifting closer.

Hitoshi eyed up the non-existent distance between them. His mouth gave an odd twitch and Izuku frowned, leaning over to lace their fingers together. He gave Hitoshi’s hand a squeeze, a silent sign of encouragement. Hitoshi hesitated a moment longer before, “Don’t take offence, Izuku, but if I said I had no interest in you and yet an interest as to what a kiss is like, what would you say?”

Izuku felt his cheeks heat up, though he made sure to keep grip his tight. “I...I would admit that perhaps I...I am c-curious too.”

Hitoshi tilted his head up so they were eye to eye. “Are you though? Or are you doing this for my sake?”

Izuku hastily looked away. “I...what if I were...in the wrong and I-I would...I have someone I...and to p-practise would be…”

“Then I wouldn’t mind.” Izuku’s eyes snapped back, mouth dropping open a little in surprise. Hitoshi scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “I mean…if you want…”

“I do.”

Izuku’s tone was absolute. He then cupped Hitoshi’s face, guiding him close. It wasn’t much, barely even a brush of lips and Izuku thought it...odd. He wouldn’t say enjoyable. Shifting onto his knees, he tried again, Hitoshi meeting him and drawing him in. This time was better, one kiss turning into two, and then more until Izuku lost count, each one soft and warm. And also slightly wet.

Izuku pulled away only as far as to rest his forehead against Hitoshi’s. “It’s...not so enjoyable...but...I also like it.” His hand went to his chest. “It...makes me warm, in here.”

Hitoshi chuckled, pressing a kiss to his cheek and making Izuku whine ever so slightly. “That, I think, is more than adequate for me.”

Izuku nodded, sitting back on his heels and touching the spot lightly. “I...understand but p-perhaps disagree. Still...thank you Hitoshi.”

Hitoshi smiled crookedly. “I believe the thanks is mine Izuku.” He got to his feet, stretching. “Should I become curious again…?”

Izuku laughed, kicking at him playfully. “Then you should know where to find me. I’ve heard there is...technique required.”

Hitoshi scoffed, waving over his shoulder as he headed left, back towards the chambers belonging to his family. Izuku’s fingers reached up to touch his lips. A giddy feeling washed over him and Izuku buried his face in his knees. So, that was what a kiss felt like.

 

***

 

It become teasing, playful, exciting almost. Izuku catching Hitoshi, Hitoshi catching Izuku and, for lack of a better word, experimenting. They never went below the neck and they never once showed an interest for each other but it was fun in its own way. Izuku wondered if it was the thrill of such undivided attention or the sheer closeness it brought him with another person. Another part of him wondered if it was the excitement of imagining doing similar things with Shouto, though Izuku quickly beat those thoughts down. They weren’t proper and it was wrong to treat Hitoshi in such a way.

Although, Hitoshi had said he didn’t mind practising. He had to know that meant Izuku had an interest, didn’t it?

Of course, that question answered itself when Hitoshi left one last lingering kiss behind his ear before leaning against the wall lazily. He drew Izuku into his arms and propped his chin atop his head before asking, “There’s someone, isn’t there? And since I know everyone in this castle to a level I probably shouldn’t and you have interest in none of them, is it one of your royal friends?”

“Even if it was, we shouldn’t speak of such things,” Izuku mumbled, preferring to hide in Hitoshi’s shirt.

Hitoshi snorted, a hand rubbing his back almost dismissively. “You’re hardly shy, Prince Izuku.”

Izuku huffed unhappily. “I can be when I-”

Izuku.”

And just like that, the world vanished under Izuku’s feet. He felt the blood drain from his face, jumping a good foot away only to yelp as a hand curled into his collar. “P-Papa!”

That, he realised all too quickly, was his second mistake. His father’s eyes narrowed and then he grabbed Hitoshi with the other hand, pulling him along as well. Izuku tried to speak up but one look at Toshinori’s face told him he’d be better off not doing so. And so he sunk down, lip drawn between his teeth to ward off tears as they were marched away. They were tossed into one of the smaller council chambers, Toshinori slamming the door behind him. He held up a single finger in Hitoshi’s direction, demanding silence, before turning to Izuku.

“Midoriya Izuku, I expected much better! Your secret was yours to guard and yet this...friend of yours not only knows your name, but your rank as well. You’ve disappointed me greatly.”

Izuku flinched. “B-but he’s...Aizawa’s son and it-”

“Does that make it alright?” Toshinori boomed, Izuku cowering. “Because he is related to someone you know? Who else should you tell, hmm? Aizawa’s husband? Your friends?”

Izuku froze before he realised it. The temperature of the room suddenly dropped.

Izuku.”

“K-Kacchan didn’t believe me!”

Midoriya Izuku!

“All Might, enough.”

Izuku startled even as his father scowled. “Aizawa, this has nothing to do with you.”

“The last bit, no,” Aizawa said, casually entering the room and placing a hand on Hitoshi’s shoulder. “However, how my son came to know of Izuku’s position is not Izuku’s fault. Hitoshi’s a spy All Might, and one with an extremely valuable quirk. He saw your son sneaking through the castle and immediately used said quirk. That his questions revealed too much was your fault, not Hitoshi’s. He was only doing his duty.”

Toshinori looked cornered before giving a single nod. “Hitoshi is excused.”

Izuku gulped. He waited for Aizawa and Hitoshi to leave before starting up. “I-...Papa, it’s...I didn’t mean, I was just so-...Papa?”

Toshinori had since dropped into a chair, swapping out of his muscle form and wearily holding out his hands. Izuku tentatively approached, only relaxing with Toshinori hugged him fiercely. “I’m sorry my boy,” he murmured. “You...this burden is too much for you to handle alone. Your mother has me and I have Tsukauchi. It makes sense you would need someone your age too.”

“Kacchan doesn’t know,” Izuku whispered, slotting his chin over Toshinori’s shoulder. “He...he did not believe a q-quirkless could...could…”

Toshinori sighed heavily. “I’m sorry Izuku but that was exactly the point.”

“No one else knows,” Izuku assured, waiting for his father to nod before pulling away. His hands curled into fists, shoulders set. “But...Papa, I-...”

“You think it’s time they should,” Toshinori finished, chuckling wetly when Izuku looked taken aback. “Your mother thinks the same. The next Kings’ Summit was her proposal. To introduce you properly and all at once.”

Izuku nodded, taking Toshinori’s hands in his. “I...I w-would like that. I...It must be time. Although,” he said sternly. “I...I must ask I be allowed to speak with the other heirs first. To not do so would break our trust and strain our friendship more than this already will.”

Toshinori looked less impressed at that but was clearly thinking it over. “We have some fifteen months. Let us discuss this when the invitation arrives.” He held up a hand when Izuku made to protest. “Izuku, we will have a discussion regardless. A reveal like this requires a plan. We will have to be prepared.”

That made sense, Izuku nodding. He then stepped closer, pressing their foreheads together. “Sorry, for not telling you about Hitoshi.”

“It is forgiven,” Toshinori said, “But only if you forgive me for losing my temper.”

“I think, should the situations been reversed, I would have too,” Izuku said honestly. “There is no fault on your side.”

“Such a wise boy,” Toshinori muttered, waving a hand. “Go, take your leave. I would like some time to myself. My bones are not quite what they used to be.”

Izuku bowed and excused himself. He couldn’t stop the deep fear that had settled in his bones though. His father was more frail than not these days and that worried Izuku, worried Izuku more than anything ever had before.

 

***

 

The seasons past and the Kings’ Summit was drawing ever closer. There was barely a month before it began, invitations sent and parties being delegated. Izuku had had several “meetings”, he would say, with his parents. They’d worked things out as best they could and worked out which tale, when spun, would be the most believable but also gain the most sympathy. They also had to carefully manage themselves so it didn’t seem as though they were pinning the blame on Endeavour when that was wholly the reason.

But today wasn’t one of those days.

Today was a day where Izuku was sitting at Tsukauchi’s side and watching him sort through letter after letter, each and every one addressed to All Might. The manservant was sorting them by priority, Izuku being given the odd few to sort. While this wouldn’t be his job, it was training in the form of teaching him what did and didn’t count as an emergency, which villages tended to exaggerate, and doubled as a lesson in decision making.

Izuku was currently pondering two letters in particular when a ruckus started from the main courtyard. Tsukauchi didn’t even need to look his way before they were up and moving. They ran through the halls, just beating All Might and Tsukauchi ushering the cause of the disturbance forward. It was a man with some sort of animal quirk that gave him speed and most of the conversation was too quiet for Izuku to hear but he caught one very, very specific word:

Dragon.

His father sent a look his way and Izuku nodded. Quirk activating, he shot off once Tsukauchi had given him a direction. His body ached as he urged more and more power through it, pushing thirty percent, but he needed it. There was something going on, something urgent, and until Toshinori got free, Izuku was the fastest they had within the castle. Hopping through the woods to the north-east, Izuku passed through a lakeside village, then a dipping valley, then an open plain and...His feet stumbled as he crashed to a halt because he saw it, gleaming red and all but shimmering in the sun. And a dragon that red could only mean one thing.

All Might chose that moment to arrive, the added movement enough to attract the attention of said dragon’s rider. The dragon abruptly dived for them, circling once before settling and Izuku barely had time to think before a body was launching itself at his. Toshinori’s hand hastily pressed into the centre of his back, holding him upright as Izuku came to recognise the shaking figure in his arms.

“Ei-Eijirou…?”

His friend sobbed, clutching onto him so tight Izuku felt his skin break but he didn’t care. He couldn’t when faced with something like this.

“Eijirou, Eijirou please,” Izuku cooed, fingers carding through his hair tenderly. “What’s-...” He looked helplessly at his father.

Toshinori nodded succinctly, coming to crouch beside Eijirou and placing a hand on both their shoulders. “Prince Eijirou my boy, speak to me. Tell Deku and I what troubles you.”

Eijirou finally managed a shuddering breath, pulling away and scrubbing at his eyes furiously. “I-...” his voice cracked so he valiantly tried again. “I am...no longer a prince.”

Izuku frowned while Toshinori went very still. “You...surely your father would not…”

“My father, Crimson Riot, King Ishiyama of Riot, is dead.”

Eijirou managed to stay composed long enough to deliver the news before crumpling. And Izuku didn’t blame him. Didn’t blame him at all.

 

***

 

It had taken some time for Izuku and Toshinori to coerce Eijirou to return to the capital with them. In fact, it had taken them a long time to coerce Eijirou to do anything. It was as though he’d bottled everything up and once it started pouring out, it couldn’t be stopped. His dragon, Elspeth, was curled around them protectively, her snout nudging Eijirou every so often. He would reply with an absent minded pat before crying into Izuku’s shirt once more.

Reaching the capital, Toshinori had managed to get Eijirou to leave Elspeth in a woods just outside the city so as not to scare the townspeople. They’d found a quiet gully and left her there, Eijirou assuring them she would stay and also assuring her that he would be back soon.

“You’re far from home,” Toshinori mused as they weaved their way through the market square. “Surely Riot needs you at this time.”

Eijirou flushed but his bottom lip was trembling. “I...it is Riotian custom to mourn in solitude for a day equal to every year you have known the one who passes.” His eyes scoured the ground. “I have mourned four days already but...I could not do it alone.”

Izuku’s heart broke, reaching out and taking Eijirou’s hand. “You did better than me. I...I would not have been able to bear it. You have a s-strong heart, Eijirou.”

Eijirou’s grip near broke his bones but Izuku didn’t dare let go. “Thank you Deku. I knew you would be a comfort.”

Izuku smiled sadly, Toshinori peeling away as they entered the palace courtyard - undoubtedly to talk to Aizawa and the council. Izuku quickly excused himself and grabbed his father, tugging him down and whispering. “Send for Kacchan. Mama will know how best to reach him.”

Toshinori raised an eyebrow but nodded. He disappeared and Izuku led Eijirou to his usual Yuueian chambers. He would have led him to his own chambers except they were in the royal wing and, even in his state, Eijirou might have noticed something odd about that. So instead they entered chambers that had yet to be dusted and aired, curtains drawn. Izuku opened them with practised ease before grabbing several blankets from the wardrobe and spreading them on the floor. Eijirou flopped down without any grace, blearily reaching for his hand. Izuku accepted the invitation, curling into Eijirou’s side without a care, despite them both being seventeen years of age now.

They lay there in silence until midday past and even longer, until the sun started to set. “I…” Eijirou cleared his throat and tried again. “I did not even get to say goodbye.”

Izuku winced, tucking himself in closer. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Eijirou.”

“The healers truly don’t even...they believe that his heart failed. I’ve heard it happens sometimes.”

Izuku didn’t have an answer for that. At the very least, foul play was ruled out. This was no murder or poisoning, just a simple failure of the heart. But simple did not make it any easier to deal with.

“I’m sorry Eijirou, I feel a-all I can do is apologise. I...I hope that is enough.”

“It is,” Eijirou assured, tightening his grip. “You...you were my first thought. When I doubted myself years ago, you believed in me. And now...since I doubt myself again…Me, a king so young...”

Izuku pushed himself up, frowning down at Eijirou. “You...Riot does not have a steward system? You are to be crowned immediately?”

Eijirou nodded, glaring at the ceiling. “Once the official mourning period is over, some forty-five days, I will be crowned. Red Riot,” he all but spat. “That is the name Dad chose. It sounds weak. As I am.”

“Hardly,” Izuku said shortly, making Eijirou finally look at him. “Crimson, as your father was. Scarlet, Magenta, Garnet, all the Riots that have come before...they...they are red with a-added colours. Eijirou, you...you are the strong, the bold, the pure. I-...I think your father has named you just so.”

The tears returned, Izuku thumbing them away. Eijirou crushed him in his arms before they were rudely interrupted by Izuku’s stomach rumbling. Izuku went bright red, Eijirou laughing before fetching a servant and sending for food. Eating their supper together, Izuku wasn’t surprised when Eijirou dragged him into bed with him. Izuku curled in close, letting Eijirou know that he wouldn’t be alone - not now, not ever.

 

***

 

Katsuki came some three days later, Izuku excusing himself from the prince’s company. Eijirou and Katsuki had been in contact ever since their initial meeting and Izuku was glad they had both found friends - if not more - in each other.

But with Eijirou taken care of, it meant Izuku could return to his own duties. He borderline sprinted to Aizawa’s office, knowing Hitoshi would be close by. If anyone had news, it would be Hitoshi. Izuku caught him just as he was returning from one errand or another, Hitoshi giving him a grim smile before jerking his head to show Izuku that he should follow. Collecting Aizawa, they made for Toshinori’s chambers, Izuku perking up when the door was locked behind them. Toshinori sighed heavily, shoulders sagging somewhat.

“I take it there isn’t good news,” he said, managing a smile when he saw Izuku.

Izuku scampered over, perching on the arm of his father’s chair and letting their shoulders bump together. Toshinori seemed to take comfort in the gesture, leaning against him a tad more.

“Hitoshi?” Aizawa prompted.

Hitoshi blinked slowly before stepping forward, more lazy than nervous and for some reason that almost made Izuku laugh. Hitoshi bit back a smile at his face before addressing All Might seriously. “There have been multiple mine collapses leading to landslides in Riot, all within the last week.”

“They’re a mining kingdom,” Toshinori countered carefully. “Surely this is expected?”

“Not when the majority the mines in question are no longer in use and all are close to the Endeavan boundary.”

Toshinori swore. “This is the wildfires all over again. Explosions...they are easy enough to fake.”

“And explosives are often left in unmanned mines,” Aizawa added. “It wouldn’t be hard for the Riotian people to believe it simply a case of bad luck.”

“Or a curse,” Izuku muttered into his lap, eyebrows drawn together. “They’re a highly superstitious people and would n-no doubt think this is retribution for their king dying. They will think that per-perhaps there was something…something they could have done.”

Toshinori rubbed his face tiredly. “And in this situation, there is nothing we can do.”

“Kacchan…”

The word was out of his mouth before he realised, everyone glancing his way. Izuku balked a bit under the attention but drew his thoughts together enough to clarify his meaning.

“Eijirou has sent for soldiers to escort him home, Riotian ones. It...it would be a display of good will and support to send some Yuuei soldiers with them. While Ei-...King Eijirou rebuilds his kingdom and establishes his rule, the Yuueians can maintain peace and a sense of protection. And…” he glanced at Aizawa. “You know as well as I that Riot will bring spies with them. You would do the same.”

Aizawa huffed, impressed. “Say that they do? You suggest we tell them what we know?”

Izuku smiled a tad too widely, Toshinori doing a double take. “Riot has no great love for Endeavour. Surely one could casually pass on information, spy to spy. Should Endeavour conquer Yuuei, Riot will be next. Should Riot fall to Endeavour, Yuuei will crumble. There would be benefit on both sides.”

Aizawa gave Toshinori a crooked grin. “I like your child.” He ruffled Izuku’s hair. “I’ll make sure Dabi passes the news on. He’s an Endeavan with an obvious grudge; far more believable to come from him.”

Toshinori nodded, Aizawa and Hitoshi seeing themselves out. He then turned to Izuku, patting his knee. “You’re quick to think, my boy. You’ll rule well.”

Izuku paused there, chewing on his bottom lip. “I...I cannot reveal myself as prince anymore.”

Toshinori pulled away in alarm. “I-Izuku? But you were so determined!”

“I know,” Izuku mumbled, wringing his hands together. “And yet...with Eijirou to be crowned I-...” He set his shoulders. “The next Kings’ Summit will be his chance to prove himself, to be presented as Red Riot, King Eijirou of Riot. I...I cannot take away from that. It is his moment.”

Toshinori reached a hand out, resting it on Izuku’s cheek. “And your moment?”

Izuku sank into the contact, eyes sliding closed. “I’ve waited twelve years Papa. I can wait a few more.”

“...You shouldn’t have to.”

 

***

 

Some weeks later Izuku watched as Eijirou was escorted back to Riot, a smattering of Riotian and Yuueian troops with him. They would be gone some near two years, stationed in Riot until the Kings’ Summit which itself had been pushed back two years. It was to give Eijirou time to bolster his kingdom before leaving it and Izuku was glad in more ways than one because it also meant Uravity had longer to prepare.

Waving to the party as they departed, Izuku had to stop his mouth from openly dropping as Katsuki took position next to Eijirou, half a horse away from side by side. Inko elbowed him in the side and Izuku quickly snapped to attention. Still, that...gods, that was the near equivalent of equal status, a damn near proposal. That...No, Izuku was not ready for that.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

With a Kings’ Summit delayed for two years, it also meant the five kingdoms were not able to meet up and, for want of a better word, snoop on each other. Which led to a sudden increase in visits from said kingdoms. Yuuei had already entertained King Kaito of Ingenium and Ochako was set to visit after the harvest season. Izuku would be lying if he said he wasn’t most excited for today’s envoy though.

Because today, Prince Shouto of Endeavour was arriving.

Hearing the announcement bell, Izuku bolted from the training grounds. He’d only been there to watch Hitoshi spar with his father out of curiosity so it wasn’t as though he had an obligation to stay. Tearing through the gardens, Izuku was taking the steps that led to the Great Hall two at a time when he heard Shouto’s voice, deeper now but still recognisable.

“-f possible, to retire for the day. My journey has been long.”

“Of course,” Toshinori said, catching sight of Izuku over Shouto’s head. “If it suits, Deku will show you to your prepared chambers?”

Izuku saw how much Shouto had to fight down the urge to whirl around, instead doing so at an idle pace. He grinned at the way Shouto’s eyes widened ever so slightly though at seeing him before giving a nod to All Might.

“This arrangement is acceptable. Thank you All Might.”

The words were accompanied by a short bow and then Shouto was waiting for Izuku to come to his side, Izuku playing his role perfectly and leading him through the palace. Just as Eijirou had long since been near given chambers of his own, so had Shouto. He was always housed in the same room, on the northern side to catch the coastal winds but avoid the early morning sun and the scorching afternoon one. Closing the door, Shouto took him in in a long look.

“You...You have grown.” His hands hesitated before grasping Izuku’s shoulders. An eyebrow quirked. “You have been training? These muscles are new.”

Izuku flushed, batting him off with a laugh. “A-and you?” he countered. “You have only gained height and have left me the runt once more.”

Shouto rolled his eyes. “You were never taller than me; I’m sure it was all your imagination.”

“You were small at seven,” Izuku grumbled but finally let his own gaze flick over Shouto. He smiled softly, letting his hand find Shouto’s cheek. “But l-look at you, you...You are...a man now Shouto. You’ve lost your boyish charm.”

Shouto snorted in amusement. “I was many things but charming was never one of them.” He took a seat at the table and indicated for Izuku to sit opposite him. Izuku did so, tucking a leg up and wrapping his arms around it. “Tell me of Yuuei,” was Shouto’s request. And Izuku did. He told him of the adventures he’d had, the things he’d “learnt” whilst being a page, how life in the capital was so much different from his village. In return, he heard about Endeavour. Shouto told him of his arduous training routine, the unlikely friendship he had made with Momo from Ingenium, the patrols he was now allowed to lead.

“I do have a quest which I have lied about,” Shouto admitted some time later, when wine had been poured and a tray of fruits provided. “My father believes my intentions to be...different to what they are.” He frowned deep into his goblet before saying, “I have begun searching for my brother.”

Izuku’s head cocked to the side. “Prince...T-Touya…?”

Shouto nodded. “My father thinks it is to have him brought to the palace so I may duel him and cut him down.” He snorted. “I would much prefer to ask him how he escaped.” At Izuku’s pained look, he flushed slightly. “You know I do not mean that.”

‘Do you though?’

“But no. Honestly, I would simply like to talk. However my efforts have been in vain. Wherever Touya is hidden, he has hidden himself well.”

“He is alive?” Izuku asked, making Shouto blink.

“Of course.” His eyes then narrowed. “Has Yuuei been told otherwise?”

Izuku gave an uncertain shrug. “I thought...years ago now...that I heard the sp-...servants say he was i-injured and had…”

“Limped away to die,” Shouto finished, rubbing his chin. “This theory is unheard of in Endeavour. I will keep it in mind though.”

“What would you do?” Izuku asked as Shouto started to get to his feet, expanding when he got a confused look. “If you...if you found Touya? He would...perhaps not be kind to you.”

Shouto frowned. “I am his brother and the Crown Prince.”

“Which is why he would hate you.”

Izuku could not believe he was gifted when an incredulous look. “I...My father has established that rule of Endeavour will pass to me, should my siblings like it or not.”

With that, he politely dismissed Izuku and called a servant in to attend him. Izuku rolled his eyes as he left the table and started back towards his own quarters. Sometimes he would like to smack these royals with nothing more than a bit of common sense. Jealousy and resentment were strong emotions, not easily controlled or reasoned with. Izuku was sure that if Shouto were ever to find his brother, it would end one of two ways.

The first, that Touya had long since started his own life and would be content to stay where he was.

Or the second, that he would take to Shouto like oil on water and all hell would break loose.

If he were a betting man, Izuku knew which option he would pick. And, unfortunately, the odds of his guess did not fall in Shouto’s favour.

 

***

 

For the next few days, Izuku was at Shouto’s beck and call. Toshinori had passed Izuku over with the excuse that it would take too long to have someone new learn how Shouto liked things to be done so why not just give him someone who was already familiar with his habits? Shouto had accepted without complaint and Izuku had been given free reign to simply be at Shouto’s side. Without Enji around, Shouto was more relaxed, not constantly looking over his shoulder and watching his back. In fact, Izuku had just given him space to retire after they’d spent the morning strolling through the capital’s streets, something Enji would never have allowed.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” came the lazy drawl from somewhere above him.

Izuku waited a few seconds before turning around, trying fruitlessly to banish the blush from his cheeks. “Hitoshi, be nice.”

Hitoshi just grinned lazily from where he was reclining on the windowsill above. “When have I ever given the impression of being nice? Now come up here and talk with me.”

Izuku folded his arms with a pout. “Perhaps you should come here, since you are the one so keen to talk.”

Still, he activated his quirk and jumped up the second floor, movement a flash. Hitoshi was halfway through getting up, though he sat back down when Izuku joined him. Izuku found himself dragged to Hitoshi’s side, getting the hint and jumping up onto the sill next to him in what little space was left. “I intended on coming down; I was only joking,” Hitoshi murmured.

“I know,” Izuku replied in kind, relaxing and letting his head bump against Hitoshi’s shoulder. “And yes. I-it’s him,” he added when Hitoshi looked lost.

“Ah. He is kind?”

“He is...He is, in his own Endeavan way.” Izuku’s brow furrowed as he stared into his lap. “Endeavour is a harsh country and K-King Enji is harsher still. Shouto...he is...That is, kindness was not often given to him.”

“And if it was, it undoubtedly didn’t come for free,” Hitoshi surmised, breathing out loudly and propping his chin atop Izuku’s head. “I imagine he could use someone like you.”

Izuku blinked up at him in surprise, Hitoshi pointedly looking away when his surprise changed to a tender smile. That, naturally, turned into Izuku poking his side, which led to Hitoshi grabbing him in a headlock and ruffling his hair. Izuku screamed and Hitoshi laughed, the two of them bickering loudly until they were interrupted by an awkward cough. Looking down, Izuku winced upon seeing Shouto there, his face unreadable.

“S-sorry Sh-...Your H-highness!” he stammered, adding a bow he didn’t really need to given the company around him. “I...Hitoshi and I will move to a different area of the castle unless...are you n-needing me?”

Shouto eyed him up for a long, long time before silently shaking his head. Izuku didn’t even have time to pass along his thanks as Hitoshi all but snatched up his hand, tugging him along. Izuku waved at Shouto as they left. What he missed was the veritable scowl sent Hitoshi’s way.

 

***

 

“And so Izuku, what do you think?”

Izuku frowned at the letter in front of him. It was from King Seiten in Uravity and was in regards to Yuuei sheltering an Urati company after their village had been lost to flooding. Izuku pored over the letter, thumb rubbing over where the king had written the proposed payment.

“This is too much,” he breathed, horrified.

Toshinori frowned, placing a hand on Izuku’s shoulder as he peered at the writing. He then shook his head. “I wouldn’t expect any less. I paid a similar amount when your village sought refuge.”

“But…” Izuku weakly protested before hunkering down. Toshinori rubbed his shoulder coaxingly. “Ura-...Uravity is...they have no money.”

He felt his father freeze. “Izuku?”

He slid down lower in his chair. “Ochako told me when...when we were seven and...and again two years ago. I-...the other princes know too.”

Toshinori sat back heavily, rubbing his chin in thought. “Then perhaps we can take payment in something other than money.”

“Uravity has bountiful livestock!” Izuku suddenly remembered, bolting upright. “We...and Yuuei is sometimes lacking!”

That got him a nod and a piece of parchment. “Practise,” Toshinori instructed. “Write a reply as if you were king.”

Izuku nodded concisely and got to work. He was familiar enough with his father’s writing by now to be able to imitate the style, though he added his own quirks in here and there - some of it had to reflect him. Each line was heavily contemplated before being written down and, eventually, the letter was complete. He waited until his father had finished his own letter before passing it over. Toshinori read each word carefully, tapping a section when he handed it back.

“This sentence, it sounds too presumptuous,” Toshinori explained. “You know of Uravity’s abundance in livestock but we, Yuuei, do not. To imply otherwise would indicate us having spies within their walls.”

Izuku mulled that over. “So I should make it out as though I am the one asking a favour when really I am doing them one?”

“Exactly!” Toshinori said with a snap of his fingers and a swift kiss to Izuku’s forehead.

Izuku grumbled good-naturedly but took another piece of parchment and started again. The writing was much easier this time, words sloping across the page until Izuku was satisfied. He checked it twice, smile luminous when he found no mistakes. Toshinori obviously didn’t either, signing his name at the bottom, sealing it with his royal seal, and sending Tsukauchi off to have it delivered to the aviary.

P-papa!” Izuku squeaked, scrambling out of his chair only to be pulled back down. His father’s gaze was stern and unrelenting.

“Izuku, your duties cannot be put off forever. And besides,” he added, tone lightening. “You have a gift with words.”

Toshinori snatched his hand back, widening the space between them and Izuku wondered why until a guard pushed open the door, Shouto at his side. “Prince Shouto requested the presence of the page boy Deku,” was the announcement.

Shouto glanced between them. “If Deku is busy, Your Majesty, I can-”

“Nonsense!” Toshinori declared, shooing Izuku away with a hand. “As I said, Deku is yours to do with as you will for the duration of your visit. I can only apologise for keeping him from you.”

Shouto shook his head. “No, the apology is mine, All Might. I have kept Deku from his duties.”

Toshinori sent Izuku a look he knew too well, already bracing himself for the sting when his father said dismissively, “I assure you Prince Shouto, our kingdom goes on just fine without Deku.”

As always though, it got the desired result, Shouto satisfied and indicating for Izuku to follow him. They headed in the direction of the courtyard, Shouto faltering momentarily before remembering where the stables were.

“Sh-Shouto?” Izuku asked uncertainly, feet slowing.

Shouto also slowed, bottom lip drawn between his teeth. “I...I thought perhaps you might show me what is beyond the castle walls. It...the time of day is nice?”

He ended it more like a question, Izuku’s head cocking to one side before-...oh. He bit back a giggle, leaning forward to take Shouto’s hand. “Come! Let’s see if cook will prepare us a picnic and then I will show you all there is to see!”

He was met with a grand total of zero protests, Izuku raiding the kitchens with practised ease and being chased out with a friendly swat. It ended with a hug and a brief forehead touch - as it always did - and then he was nicking a clean blanket from the laundry and stuffing it into Shouto’s hands. Shouto, for his part, looked entirely bewildered, clearly unsure as to whether this was fun or if, by rights, he should just be given the things Izuku was so “craftily” “stealing”.

Still, before the sun had reached its zenith they were leaving the castle walls and heading north west to the forests and the plains. Shouto had seen the capital many times but what lay beyond it? A mystery.

Izuku led him through valleys and over rises. They picked wild apples and marvelled at the rabbits that went skittering away at the sound of their horses’ hooves. They passed overgrown thickets and bubbling brooks. It was when they reached a wide open field that gave them a view of the mountain range that divided them from the sea that Izuku pulled them to a halt. “Here?”

“Here.”

Unpacking was simple enough, the horses allowed to graze freely. Food was set and then they were lounging across the blanket, pieces of meats and breads being passed between them.

“Yuuei is more beautiful than I realised,” Shouto said, eyes roaming over things far in the distance. “Or perhaps it is simply different to Endeavour. For there is beauty in Endeavour too.”

A stolen glance at Shouto’s profile had Izuku nodding too. “I agree. And I...I have it on good authority that the route you take to us is...the uh-...most unpleasant,” he finished awkwardly.

Shouto, however, gave the tiniest laugh. “I have no doubt that was intentional. It’s also quite ingenious.”

Izuku allowed himself to laugh then, stretching his arms before reclining against Shouto. That got him a raised eyebrow but he returned it with an innocent stare. “What? Have we not done this since we were children?” he teased.

Shouto flicked his nose, making Izuku squawk. “Always you push the boundaries, Deku.”

“It was you who said we were friends, not prince and servant,” Izuku pointed out in a hushed whisper.

Shouto hesitated before nodding. “Indeed. You have caught me out.” He then wrapped an arm around Izuku’s chest being lying down himself, bringing Izuku with him. Izuku had no complaints, only shifting slightly closer and twisting so they were more comfortable. He hid a yawn behind his hand very badly, making Shouto give an amused huff. “If you are tired, rest some.”

“And leave you, Shouto of Endeavour, unguarded? Your father would have my head!”

“He would have it regardless,” Shouto shot back dryly. “And should the situation arise, I think you will find it more to be me protecting you.”

Izuku bit back a remark there, knowing that that wasn’t true anymore. They could both defend each other now. He let the comment slide, merely humming in what could be taken for agreement.

“I have been wondering, what with Eijirou being pronounced Red Riot and king,” he said, changing the subject entirely. “That when you become king, what will your title be? Ingenium and Uravity are not one for titles, Yuuei passes down the name All Might from generation to generation…” he tilted his head up so he could see Shouto’s face. “A-and what of you? You will not be the...Flame King.”

No,” Shouto spat, disgust obvious. He then sighed, a hand running through his hair. “I’m afraid, I don’t know. We choose our own titles but I have yet to find one that fits. Although…” His expression became pinched and borderline scandalised. “When last I went to Riot, there was a highly ranked knight who referred to me as “Half and Half Bastard”.”

Izuku choked on his inhale before bursting out laughing. Shouto jumped in alarm but Izuku was latching onto his arm. “Please tell me he was blond! And that Eijirou scolded him terribly!”

“He was and yes, he did. Do you…” Shouto’s eyes narrowed. “You know him! I thought he looked Yuueian but his personality…”

Izuku erupted into laughter once more. “That is my friend, Kacchan! You...I speak of him o-often. He...He is part of a faction All Might has sent to Riot.”

“Your method of choosing friends needs some work,” Shouto chastised.

Izuku rolled his eyes. “It was him or no one and Kacchan is not so bad...not once you get to know him.”

“Speaking of friends,” Shouto said. “That man, some three days ago. Also a...friend?”

“Hitoshi?” Izuku chirped. “He was my first friend within the palace! It is rare for servant’s children to live within the castle. Usually people leave All Might’s service once they have a child on the way. A palace is no place for a child to grow,” he recited, quoting his mother.

And just like that, Shouto’s expression shut down. But when Izuku tried to apologise, he was waved off and assured it was nothing. It took a good hour to get Shouto’s spirits back up but once they were, they remained up. The afternoon ride was pleasant, as were the next two days until Shouto had to return home. He paused at the top of the steps though, shifting his weight before striding to Izuku’s side and promising to return again soon. Izuku stared after him, dumbfounded.

What?

 

***

 

As promised, Shouto returned some six months later. His party was smaller and more intimate, more of a scouting party than a royal visit. His explanation to All Might was that he’d come to observe their knights’ training regimes and it was the first time Toshinori had broken his word and pulled Izuku aside, pleading for him to find Shouto’s true intentions. Izuku hadn’t even had to ask though, Shouto offhandedly saying he had no interest in their army and simply required some space from his father; all of which Izuku reported back to his father. After all, leaving him thinking Endeavour was about to wage war was just cruel.

Izuku was also introduced to Momo, the servant who had been given to Endeavour after Stain’s downfall. True to his word, Shouto had allowed her a companion and Momo’s friend, Kyouka, had made the journey to Endeavour with her. Momo was, in Izuku’s mind, everything a queen should be. She was smart and quick-thinking, beautiful as well as powerful. It made sense why King Kaito had chosen her. Still, she was kind and Kyouka had a humour similar to Izuku’s. They’d spent many an hour gossiping and teasing each other.

Today found Shouto have his midday meal with All Might and discussing politics so Izuku had meandered his way down to the armoury. New gambesons had been made for the knights, the buttons all that was remaining. Having helped his mother make clothes since he was barely four, Izuku was more than familiar with the sewing of buttons.

He was several coats in when the door behind him was pushed him open. Izuku barely paid any mind until a hand was placed on his shoulder. Looking up, Izuku balked at finding Shouto there. He made to put his needle and thread down but Shouto stopped him with a hand, dropping onto the bench next to him. “Here, let me.”

Izuku stared at him. “Shouto, I don’t…” He curled his hands over Shouto’s. “You can’t sew, can you?”

Shouto turned bright red, snatching his hand back. “It cannot be hard,” he ground out.

Izuku pasted on a smile before guiding him through the motions. As he’d expected, Shouto was truly terrible. Izuku bit back snickers and simply continued his own work, ignoring the increasingly frustrated curses that came from his right. Placing his fourth gambeson down, Izuku was reaching for his fifth when Shouto’s fingers wrapped around his wrist.

“How are you so fast at this?”

Izuku laughed, patting Shouto’s cheek fondly. “I have done this some near thirteen years now. You-...practise is good. Y-you would know that. And...well,” he toyed with the collar of Shouto’s coat. “You are more familiar with clasps and toggles. That too would be a hindrance.”

Shouto’s eyes found him, studying him deeply. “You surprise me sometimes, Deku. A servant should not be so wise.”

Izuku tutted at him, nuzzling into the hand Shouto pressed to his cheek. “One does not need to be a p-prince to possess a brain.”

Shouto didn’t answer that, just thumbed his cheek in something almost like wonder. “You are, truly, something else Deku.”

His eyes then dropped to his lips and Izuku knew what that meant; he’d seen the look enough on Hitoshi and had given it plenty himself. But seeing it on Shouto was new and Izuku didn’t know how to act. His hands clenched and unclenched but Shouto starting to pull away was all it took for Izuku to shift into action. It wasn’t much and it didn’t last long but it was a kiss nonetheless.

Izuku sat back with his cheeks on fire while Shouto brought a hand to his lips almost subconsciously. He then narrowed his eyes. “Come, try that again.”

Izuku huffed out a laugh, inching closer and capturing his lips once more. “Sh-shouto,” he murmured, not getting to finish before he was kissed again. “If you...wanted this you should have...just asked.”

Every second word or so was interspersed with a kiss and Izuku quickly gave up speaking all together. Shouto was more inexperienced than he was and for some reason that made Izuku smug; at least “practising” with Hitoshi had paid off. He led them on a merry dance, whining every time Shouto nipped at his bottom lip and relishing in every gasp he pulled from Shouto in return. Izuku’s hands curled in the front of Shouto’s shirt, sighing when Shouto cupped his face.

“Shouto…”

Shouto finally relented, forehead resting against Izuku’s. “Deku.”

Izuku intertwined their fingers, not ready to move just yet. For now, this was enough.

 

***

 

From there, everything just...flowed. When Shouto was home he had a personal falcon that would come to Izuku. Izuku, who had “learnt to read and write since becoming a page”, would latch onto each letter given. He treasured them and locked them in a drawer in his chambers so he could re-read them at leisure. He would reply in a timely fashion, though never anything too incriminating, lest King Enji intercept the message.

Shouto came when he could, when enough time had passed so as not to appear suspicious. He fed his father information without really revealing anything and if Enji continually fell for it, Izuku wasn’t going to complain. To be honest, it was more that Enji would never even entertain the possibility that Shouto would find love within Yuuei. If love was the right word; Izuku was never sure on that. Even now, as they were curled up together on Shouto’s bed, Shouto reading aloud from a book, Izuku wasn’t sure where they stood. Not officially, anyway.

“You’re distracted,” Shouto murmured, thumbing his shoulder absently.

“I-...! I’m...thinking,” Izuku corrected. “But nothing that cannot wait.”

Shouto closed his book, setting into aside and spreading his arms invitingly. Izuku beamed, straddling Shouto’s lap and kissing him sweetly. It had been near eighteen months since they’d first done this but each time was just as special.

“If I could,” Shouto whispered, lips tracing Izuku’s jaw and up to his ear, “I would have this everyday.”

Izuku felt his heart leap into his throat, clutching Shouto’s helplessly and nuzzling into his cheek. Because he could. Izuku could give him this.

 

***

 

“It’ll be extra for the rose gold,” said the goldsmith, handing the sketch back along with a price that had Izuku paling. Izuku hastily pulled out his bag of coins, furtively counting through them. It was everything he had made since becoming a page but...he glanced between the figure and the coins once more. Something ugly curled in his gut and he forced down the urge to cry. It was fine. It was! He could...redesign, and it would be fine.

He went to bid farewell when a hand caught his sleeve. “Son, you look as though I’ve murdered your child.” Izuku went to protest when he found himself under heavy scrutiny. “You...you’re not a noble, are you?”

Izuku paused. “Wha-...no, I...I’m a pageboy, a servant, if you will.”

The man scoffed, snatching back his paper and eyeing the design once more. He came back with a figure that was significantly less, and one that Izuku knew he could afford. “That amount.”

“No sir,” he said, shaking his head furiously. “I-...I cannot pay so little. This is-”

“That’s what it’s worth,” came the reply.

B-But!” Izuku pointed at the number emphatically. “This is a fraction of what you just charged!”

“And? If you were a noble you’d have paid it without batting an eyelid. Money means something very different to them.” The goldsmith shrugged. “Can you blame me for making a little extra when it wouldn’t be missed? Sorry for misjudging your clothes though! Noble’s sons and pages...you all dress so similar.” He laughed. “It’s only ‘cause of your face at the price that I realised I’d make a mistake.” The man tapped the figure once more. “This amount and a week. That’s my offer.”

Izuku didn’t even have to think. “Done!”

 

***

 

Some four months later found Izuku atop of the battlements of Yuuei’s castle. Shouto was by his side, watching the sun descend over the mountains. In Izuku’s pocket, heavy as a stone, sat the ring he’d had made those many months ago. It had turned out even more beautiful than he had expected; gold, white gold, and rose gold all braided together.

(Izuku was no fool though; he knew the metals were undoubtedly anything but pure gold. But as a servant, he couldn’t afford to be picky.)

But now it sat there like a burning ember, just waiting for its moment to shine. Izuku had attempted to ask for Shouto’s hand every day this past week and each time he had lost his nerve. His time was running out though, Shouto intending to return to Endeavour the day after next. Izuku would at least like one day with his fiancé before he was gone again and their duties kept them apart until the Urati Kings’ Summit.

“Shouto?” His voice was shakier than he would have liked, Shouto frowning.

“Deku? Is something-”

He was halted by Izuku holding up a hand. “S-sorry but...but please let me…” Izuku took a deep breath. “I...Shouto, we have known each other a long time and we...we are perhaps closer than anyone I have ever known. I...you are my confidant and I trust you like you are family. I would...confidently say I...I love you.”

Izuku risked a glance up there, Shouto looking completely off-balance but also besotted. He kissed Izuku’s forehead tenderly. Izuku took that as good enough, finally reaching into his pocket. His fingers fisted around the ring before pulling it out, holding it between them. Shouto went rigid, eyes widening.

“Deku…”

“You know what I am asking,” Izuku whispered, hands shaking. “If you would...Shouto, I…”

“Deku.”

“Would you accept my hand in marriage?”

Silence passed between them for a long moment. Then Shouto was reaching out, hand curling over Izuku’s. He closed his fingers around the ring, bringing Izuku’s hand up and kissing it lightly.

“Deku, you know I cannot.”

And just like that, Izuku’s world shattered.

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Izuku pulled back in alarm, feeling the blood drain from his face. “W-what?”

Shouto looked at him in equal amounts of disbelief. “Deku, you...You must have known this could not have worked.”

Izuku snatched his hand back, folding his arms tightly, as if to hug himself, to keep Shouto out. “Th-then...you-...Shouto was just...leading me on?”

“No! Deku, that wasn’t my inten-”

“Then why?”

It sounded pitiful, even to him. Shouto ran a hand through his hair agitatedly. “Deku, the laws of my land would never have allowed it! I cannot break them for you. You are a servant Deku, a commoner.”

“So is my mother,” Izuku shot back unthinkingly.

Shouto frowned. “And she married a common foot soldier,” Shouto said, as if Izuku was the one who didn’t know. It made him flush though and had some semblance of sense slamming back into him because what had he just implied? Izuku shook his head, trying to clear those thoughts. “Secondly,” Shouto continued, reaching for him only to be denied. “Deku, you are Yuueian. My father would never allow it.”

Izuku flinched at that, mouth opening and shutting a few times before Shouto dealt the final blow.

“And perhaps, most importantly, Deku...you are quirkless.”

Izuku physically reeled, eyes wide as he took in Shouto for what felt like the first time. “My...My quirklessness is what…”

“It is an aspect,” Shouto stressed. “You cannot be surprised!”

Oh but he was. He really was. Izuku planted a foot into the ground, all but scowling. “So Shouto, if...if I were to have been born a...a p-prince...and if I had somehow been Endeavan you...you would still not have accepted because...because I do not possess a quirk?”

He was incredulous by the end, Shouto frowning. “I have angered you.”

“You have not answered,” Izuku snapped.

It was the wrong move, Shouto drawing himself up to his full height and turning icy. “No, Deku of Yuuei. I would not have accepted. Because you cannot change any of it.”

“Say that I could,” he argued. “Say that I could...become a noble and cross the border...even then…”

“You won’t so it doesn’t matter,” Shouto said coldly. “But my answer would be no. I...Quirks are what make us. They are what make us strong. I cannot risk having a weak link on the throne.”

Izuku took one step back, then another. His breath shuddered as he drew it in but he hammered down his tears. “I...I see,” he said, voice painfully blank. He pocketed the ring, bowing deeply. “Then I...I apologise Shouto, for...for being presumptuous. I...I know I test my limits but...may I ask you to forget this evening and let our friendship remain?”

Shouto hesitated before guiding Izuku up by the chin. “We have, both of us, hurt each other’s trust. It will take time to rebuild but I will never stop considering you my friend.”

Izuku smiled tightly, forcing himself to hug Shouto but when the prince made to connect their foreheads he jerked back. He excused himself with another bow before walking to the staircase that led down from the battlements. And as soon as he hit them, he ran.

 

***

 

Izuku, as young and inexperienced as he was, cried through the night. He got not even one hour of sleep, buried under his pillow to muffle the sound of his sobs. His heart felt ripped into pieces. He didn’t know what hurt more; Shouto rejecting him or knowing that if he had revealed himself years before, Shouto would have accepted him so long as All Might had given him his quirk. It didn’t sit right with his view of love, that you loved someone and would do anything for them. That Shouto had such strict requirements was akin to a slap in the face.

Still, he had washed his face and covered the redness around his eyes with cream. He had spent the next two days in Shouto’s company as though nothing had transpired between them, as per his request. Their distance - physically - felt rather noticeable but to anyone outside of them, Izuku was sure nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Which was good because Izuku had since come to realise how incredibly stupid he’d been. He had not thought a single thing through and that was most unlike him. Was this, perhaps, what was meant when people said love made you blind? It certainly felt that way.

However, Shouto leaving with little more than a nod had been the proverbial nail in the coffin and all the delicate control Izuku had held over the past two days promptly collapsed. And suddenly he was back in his chambers, Shouto’s letters strewn across his bedside table and the ring balanced precariously somewhere in the middle as he cried and cried.

Which was exactly how his mother found him, gasping and scurrying over, hand immediately coming to rub his back. “Izuku? Izuku, what’s wrong?”

“My boy?” His father was there too, having closed the door and joined Inko. “Izuku, what has upset you?”

Izuku just shook his head, shoulders heaving with great sobs. “Oh darling,” Inko murmured worriedly, toying with his hair before Izuku heard the sound of paper rustling. He didn’t even try to stop her, too tired to consider sitting up and protesting. He felt her go very still. “Oh Izuku...you didn’t…”

He let out a wounded noise, Inko shushing him before clearly explaining the situation to Toshinori. He spluttered, shock apparent. “Izuku! Did you not-...If Shouto had reacted badly, Endeavour would hav-”

Toshinori!” Inko’s voice was so sharp it even coaxed Izuku’s head up. “Your son is clearly hurting right now! I think he needs his father more than his king! If you are only going to scold him, you may leave. The door is unlocked.”

“Mama…” Izuku croaked, sitting up only to have her shake her head firmly.

“No Izuku, I’m right and I will not swayed.”

Toshinori shrunk down, nodding and getting to his feet. “I...Allow me a minute to clear my head.”

Inko nodded, shifting onto the bed properly and drawing Izuku to her side. “Now, talk to me. You have cried plenty, I doubt it will help anymore.”

And so Izuku told her, from day one, from the day in Uravity when Ochako had made Shouto’s affections clear. He spoke of the days they had spent together, the time in each other’s company. He choked his way through Shouto’s request and his obvious misinterpretation. He spoke of their argument after, watching Inko’s face cloud over. He hadn’t even heard his father come back until he spoke.

“That is...that is cruel,” Toshinori said, horrified. He took Izuku’s hands in his. “If Shouto had no intention of taking this courtship further he should not have implied it would.”

“If he had so many areas Izuku did not meet, he should never have started it in the first place,” Inko sniffed.

“Mama, Papa…” Izuku breathed, bottom lip wobbling.

But,” Inko said heavily, holding a hand up. “Toshinori is right Izuku. You took a terrible risk here. Why did you not speak to us about this?”

Izuku shrugged. “I...I thought…” He gestured between them loosely. “You are...royal and commoner.”

“Oh Izuku.” Inko was drawing him in, brushing his hair and hushing away his tears. “Your father and I have set you a terrible example, it would seem.”

“I disagree,” Toshinori murmured, hand curling over Izuku’s shoulder. “I saw in your mother everything I ever wanted in another person. She was strong, wise, beautiful, caring...why, I could continue all day.”

Papa,” Izuku groaned, earning a laugh.

“I knew that I loved her and only her say so would stop me from having her. If Shouto sees the same in you, as you do in him, and still does not have you...Then, my boy, he is a fool.”

“Toshinori,” Inko reprimanded.

“Am I wrong?” he pressed. “Does Izuku not deserve that?”

“Well…” Inko huffed. “Very well, but it does not excuse Izuku’s recklessness!”

“Don’t worry Mama,” Izuku assured, leaning back and drying his eyes. “I have already scolded myself plenty. It…” his eyes fell to his hands, which were wringing together. “I was lucky Shouto took it as well as he did. Though I...I have also you, Papa, to thank for that.”

Toshinori blinked, pointing at himself dumbly. “Me?”

Izuku nodded firmly. “It was you who arranged for me to befriend the other royals. Had I not been Shouto’s friend for as long as I have been, it...I imagine things ending differently. It is because of our friendship that I was able to...That we could argue in our own way, as equals.”

Izuku whinged when his hair was ruffled. “Izuku, you have done that yourself. Gods know I could never have befriended Todoroki Shouto.”

“He is rather petulant,” Izuku admitted, Inko tutting in displeasure. She then kissed his forehead. “Tidy your room and take a turn about the gardens; the fresh air will do you good.”

“I will,” he promised, slipping off the bed and starting to pick his wayward parchment up.

“And Izuku!” Inko called from the doorway, making him look up inquiringly. “Next time, please inform us first.”

Mama!” Izuku shrieked.

 

***

 

“So, he was not kind after all.”

“Hitoshi,” Izuku scolded, sending him a stern look as he joined him in the baths. “Think rationally. You know he was right.”

Hitoshi just rolled his eyes. “Sometimes what appears to be a right choice can be a wrong one in the long run.”

Izuku didn’t answer that, instead letting the hot water soak into his bones. The weather was turning colder so the warm bath was nothing but a relief, especially when he’d been training all day and his muscles ached. He didn’t even protest when Hitoshi poured water over his head. That made his friend raise an eyebrow.

“Either this bath is far better for you than me or you are dulled by heartache.”

Izuku splashed him, earning a chuckle. “I am not heartbroken. I...I admit I was upset and I think...perhaps I am more disappointed than anything but...As Mama has told me, I am but nineteen. Maybe I was foolish all along.”

“My parents were fifteen,” Hitoshi pointed out. “But I suppose everyone is different. And Dad had no one tying him to Riot so the move was-”

“Yamada is R-riotian?” Izuku interrupted.

Hitoshi abruptly smacked him over the back of the head. “Iz-...Deku,” he corrected, mindful of the other servants in the bathhouse. “Have you so much as looked at Dad? His appearance makes it obvious.”

Izuku mulled that over before eventually nodding, talking more to himself than Hitoshi. “I suppose...and yes, he-...it would explain being called ‘dad’. That’s...a Riotian term we don’t-...how could I not have…?”

Hitoshi gave him a nudge. “Stop it. He considers himself Yuueian anyway. He has lived here more than half his life.”

Izuku hummed, leaning back and scouring the ceiling. “And you, Hitoshi? Although you have no interest, have you ever considered marriage?”

He was met with thoughtful silence. “Considered? Yes. But considered seriously? I would say no.” Hitoshi joined Izuku in staring at the roof. “There is always the thought of children but then, that’s not an interest of mine either.” His head lolled to face Izuku, Izuku returning the look. “There is you, I suppose,” he drawled.

M-me?!” Izuku squeaked.

Hitoshi tweaked his nose. “We enjoy each other’s company well enough.” He shrugged, getting up and grabbing a towel. “We would never be happy but we would be content.”

Izuku frowned, copying him and hastily tying his own towel around his waist. “You are...not serious?”

Hitoshi snorted. “Of course I am. We would work well. I simply have zero inclination to marry you.”

Izuku blinked before laughing. He wrapped his arms around Hitoshi and Hitoshi hugged him back just as firmly. “You tease me,” Izuku mock pouted.

Hitoshi didn’t bother to deny it. “I have done so since we were eight. Still, it made you laugh. That’s enough, don’t you think?”

Izuku let their hands clasp, leading Hitoshi to where they had left their clothes. “Yes, I think so. And Hitoshi? Thank you.”

 

***

 

With the Kings’ Summit now less than two months away, there was no time for Izuku to think about Shouto. No, he was caught up in meetings between his mother and father and being kept in the loop by Tsukauchi about things that were said in council meetings behind closed doors. Agreements were being tossed back forth, as well as arguments and Izuku knew what the main one was.

Endeavour and Ingenium threatened to cut ties with Yuuei seven years ago unless an heir was produced. How do we intend to combat this?

And, as much as Izuku had wanted this Kings’ Summit to be Eijirou’s moment, he was starting to realise he may not have a choice. If keeping his identity hidden threw the five kingdoms into jeopardy, then the only thing he could do was come out. Izuku, his family, and Tsukauchi had debated it continually until Aizawa had come one day and pulled All Might aside. Whatever was said had his father turning pale and declaring, with no room for argument, that Izuku would not be revealed. Inko had tried to ask more but Toshinori had shut her down.

Izuku wasn’t blind though, he knew they’d talked about it privately later. And without him, much to his chagrin.

But whatever Aizawa had passed along had seemingly been more precarious than Izuku taking his place as prince because since his message had been delivered, Izuku had never seen his father so tense. Meetings were held in secret until finally Izuku was pulled aside by Toshinori.

“Papa?”

“The council has decided to present at the Kings’ Summit an heir I have “chosen”. Tomorrow, at noon, we will meet him and discuss this. Do not be late!”

His father had left and Izuku eagerly looked forward to the meeting. So looking forward, in fact, that his thoughts had plagued him all night long and he had ended up oversleeping. As of now he was sprinting through the halls, near tripping on one of the hall runners in his haste to turn the corner. An arm snapped out to stop him from falling, Izuku twisting to call out a thanks when-

K-Kacchan?

His friend let him go once he was upright, hands stuffed deep in his pockets. “As useless as ever, huh Deku?”

The words went right over his head, Izuku too busy beaming and having to restrain himself because Katsuki was back. Their party had been due back just before the Kings’ Summit, Izuku recalled. They must have not long arrived, Izuku taking in his friend. The two years away had done him good; his skin was darker from sun exposure, the faintest freckles dusting his nose. His arms were thicker and his stance broader. He seemed almost calmer, as though responsibility had done him a world of good. But what caught Izuku’s attention the most was the two dragon teeth pierced through his ears.

“Ka-kacchan’s...engaged?”

Katsuki, dare Izuku say it, floundered. “Huh?! What makes you-”

He froze when Izuku gently touched one crimson red tooth. “In Riot, you propose to another by offering them a hatchling dragon. If...if they return your affections you take the first two teeth that fall and pierce them here.”

Izuku then yelped as he was suddenly dragged into a side corridor, slammed into the wall none too gently. “K-Kacchan?

“How do you know that?”

“I-...Eijirou told me,” Izuku managed, scrabbling against Katsuki’s hold on his neck.

“And you know Eijirou how?” came the harsh demand.

Izuku stilled. “Kacchan…”

Katsuki dropped him, looking off into the distance. “You weren’t lying all those years ago when you said you were All Might’s kid, were you?”

Izuku toed the ground. “Kacchan, we were children. I-”

He yelped when Katsuki let off an explosion. “You think I’m stupid, Deku? Eijirou’s told me all about you, every little tea party the two of you have had and trust me, they don’t add up to what you’ve told me.” Izuku wilted. “And you...you know too fucking much. You spew shit from every kingdom so either you’re the worst spy who hasn’t figured out whose side he’s on or...your All Might’s kid and this is your way of making friends. Not that I think you’re smart enough to come up with that. But All Might is. I’m right, aren’t I Deku?”

Izuku didn’t answer, couldn’t, too busy fighting back the burning in his eyes.

Katsuki snorted. “You’re not denying it so I must be right.” He turned on his heel. “If I was All Might, I’d wanna hide you too.”

Izuku snapped.

His quirk activated before he’d even thought about it, leaping in front of Katsuki and punching him hard enough to have him flying back into the corridor. Katsuki was wide eyed at the lightning that flickered over his frame but Izuku didn’t care, fisting a hand in his collar and yanking him up.

“Papa hid me to protect me! You think it was easy Katsuki, knowing who I was and having to lie about it? To have King Enji constantly in my face, threatening to burn me at the stake because I didn’t have a quirk?” Katsuki went pale. “To be kidnapped and forgotten in an Ingeniun dungeon, never knowing which day King Kaito would discover my identity and execute me? To have to lie to those closest to me just so I could stay safe?” Izuku dropped Katsuki, taking two steps back and sobbing into his hands. “Kacchan, you don’t even know my name. Do you know how much that hurts?”

Izuku took his leave, hastily drying his eyes on the hem of his shirt. No doubt he was flushed from tears and anger but he didn’t have time to care; he was definitely late now. There was nothing for it, Izuku activating his quirk and getting ready to run.

“Oi, Deku!”

He grit his teeth. “I don’t have time for this Kacchan.”

“...give me something to call you other than ‘useless’, you damn prince.”

Izuku’s quirk dropped, turning around with surprise. “I-...” He swallowed against the lump in his throat. “I-...Izuku. My name is Izuku.”

“Fine,” Katsuki grumbled. “But just know...when Ei’ and I get married, I’ll be a prince too…” he grinned ferally. “Izuku.”

Izuku’s mouth fell open, groaning when Katsuki laughed. Gods, that was the last thing he needed.

 

***

 

Izuku did, eventually, make it to the room his father had specified the day before. He shut the door with a wince, coming to All Might’s side and nodding to the man on the other side of the table. “S-sorry, I ran into Kacchan-“

His father smiled, ushering him to a chair. “You’ll have to find me afterwards and fill me in; I hope to find him well.” Toshinori gestured across the table, “Izuku, please meet Mirio. Mirio, my son, Prince Izuku.”

Izuku’s head whipped around to face his father before schooling his features. He smiled tightly at the blond man, extending a hand. “Mirio, it is good to meet you.”

Mirio shook his head, taking his hand with a smile. “No, the honour is all mine. To think! - All Might’s son! I’m so delighted to meet you. Up until yesterday, I didn’t even know you existed!”

Izuku flushed. “I...I’m sure the feeling of honour will become mutual. After all, All Might trusts you enough to introduce you to me. I can count on one hand the amount of people who know my name.”

That seemed to take Mirio by surprise. “So few? I...I suppose that makes sense.” He looked to All Might. “So I’m...to pretend to be Izuku?”

Toshinori leant back in his chair, shaking his head. “We’re treading with caution right now. I have implied choosing a successor before. That is the role I will be asking you play.”

“And Izuku?”

Izuku felt his father give him a nudge, indicating that he should find his own feet here. “I have been playing a servant for many years and will continue to bolster the friendships I’ve made.” He folded his hands together. “I would have announced myself this year, had this not been Ei-...Red Riot’s first time attending as king.”

Mirio smiled widely at him. “You went to call him Eijirou - you truly are friends!” He held out a hand to All Might. “Your son is as likeable as you are. This could be fun!”

“Then you accept?” Toshinori asked.

“W-wait!” Izuku said, hands flailing. “This is undoubtedly going to be dangerous! I...have you a family Mirio? A lover?”

Mirio blinked before slapping his hands on the table. “Ah, I should have introduced myself! My name is Togata Mirio; I’m in training to be one of Yuuei’s heroes. No family or lover yet, but one day!” A grin. “I also have a quirk, if you’d like to see it?”

“Yes!” Izuku said excitedly, bouncing in his seat.

Toshinori chuckled, Mirio tossing Izuku an apple. “Please throw this at me.”

Izuku was perplexed but did as asked, tossing the apple directly at Mirio’s head. His breath hitched as it went straight through. “Amazing! How do you do that? Can you turn it off when you-”

“Izuku,” Toshinori pleaded, tugging him down into his chair. “You can talk with Mirio later about this. Still young man, it is a remarkable quirk. I imagine your training was extensive.”

“It was!” Mirio said. “But I’m now glad to be fully confident in using it.”

“Then, I think, we have an agreement.” Toshinori turned to Izuku. “Unless you disagree?” Izuku shook his head. “Then go, find Katsuki once more. Mirio and I have some etiquettes to go over.”

Izuku’s nose scrunched up, making them both laugh. He remembered his own etiquette training and had absolutely no desire to repeat it. He took the out his father gave him, all but ejecting himself from the room.

 

***

 

The next seven weeks flew by and before Izuku knew it, they were heading to Uravity. Katsuki had departed two days earlier to meet with the Riotian party, attending the summit as Eijirou’s companion rather than a Yuueian knight. Mirio was riding with the knights, Izuku tucked into the servant’s carriage once more. The only people with Toshinori were Tsukauchi and Sorahiko, though Izuku thought he had seen Aizawa and Hitoshi sneak in.

The arrival into Uravity’s capital was met with smiles and pleasant hugs. The servants were whisked away and offered tea, while the royals and nobles were invited to the gardens for wine and pastries. Izuku took his seat at a low-lying table, brightening when he recognised the servants opposite him.

“Momo! Kyouka!”

“Deku!” Momo greeted him with an illuminating smile, Kyouka giving a lazy one and holding her hand out.

Izuky gave it a quick shake before pouring himself a cup of tea. “Have you been here long?”

“Barely an hour,” Momo said with a wave of her hand. “We got delayed by a rockfall in the foothills.”

“We got caught in crosswinds!” came a voice from next to Izuku, making him jerk to the side only to realise there was someone there. Someone invisible, it would seem. She saw his surprise, holding out what Izuku gathered was a hand. “Tooru!”

He awkwardly held his own out until she snatched it up, shaking it vigorously. “Deku. Uh, from Y-yuuei,” he added, in case that wasn’t obvious.

Tooru let go of his hand but bounced up and down. “Oh, a Yuueian! I’ve heard it’s beautiful there!” Tooru’s sleeve gestured across the table. “I served in the Endeavan palace and knew Momo and Kyouka before being sent elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere?” Izuku repeated, serving the women rice before filling his own bowl. “And where are you now, Tooru?”

“Ingenium!” she chirped. When next she spoke, Izuku could clear picture her pouting. “You didn’t hear it from me but I’m there as a spy. But...you know, King Enji isn't that nice and Ingenium’s wonderful so…” Tooru shrugged. “I pass on tidbits but I can’t always be where the information is being exchanged, can I?”

“I guess not,” Izuku agreed, though his brow furrowed. “Still, you need to make sure you don’t endanger yourself.”

“Aww, he’s sweet!” Tooru giggled, pinching his cheek. Izuku flushed while Momo and Kyouka laughed. “And don’t worry, I’m good at giving information without really giving information.” Her attention turned back to Momo. “So, you remember Mashirao, of the prince’s guard? Well, he-”

Oi, Deku.

Izuku jerked upright, whipping around to find Katsuki there. His friend was scowling darkly, earning him a bored look from Kyouka, and Izuku quickly got to his feet and hauled him away, lest they make a scene.

“So this is what you do?” Katsuki scoffed when they were alone in the hallway. “Gossip with servant girls?”

“And if I do?” Izuku shot back, grinning cheekily when Katsuki made to grab him. “Kacchan, remember, you’re still Yuueian. It’s t-treason to attack the prince.”

Katsuki faltered momentarily before gripping his cheeks. “You wouldn’t.” He dropped his hand with a huff. “So we have to...make nice?”

Oh, that was right, Katsuki had never been in a situation like this before. Everything was new to him. Izuku was sure being subservient didn’t suit Katsuki at all. “It is simple,” he said, ignoring Katsuki when he blew up. “We are, all of us, equal. Do not insult their kingdoms and do not boast about our own. But never forget,” he added severely, “We are all waiting for that vital slip up. A single whisper can turn the tide of a war.”

He went to step away when Katsuki’s hand wrapped around his arm, pulling him up. There was a look in his eyes Izuku didn’t recognise. “You...When I first realised you were All Might’s son, I couldn’t...I couldn’t serve under you. It’s part of why I accepted Eijirou so easily.” He took him in slowly. “But...shit Deku, just then you…”

Izuku smiled sadly. “As I said, you never know what people are like behind closed doors. The Deku you know...that’s not who I am Kacchan. Maybe...Maybe one day you’ll see that. Now come, you need to introduce yourself.”

 

***

 

Izuku would be lying if he said he was surprised to receive a summons from Ochako two nights in. The first night had simply been a feast and afterwards, Eijirou had done his usual and snooped around until he’d found his friends. Izuku was, at the very least, grateful that he and Shouto still remained cordial. They danced around each other in terms of physical contact but their conversations came as easily as always. Eijirou had announced his engagement.

And no, Izuku hadn’t missed the way Shouto had hastily turned away after Eijirou had answered Tenya’s questions; no, he wasn’t royal, yes, he was Yuueian, no, he didn’t care what it looked like. He loved Katsuki and that was all that mattered.

Izuku felt his heart tear a little but he pushed it aside because Eijirou loved Katsuki. Such a warmth came with hearing those words, especially since Eijirou was always so ardent and sincere in his emotions.

For his bit, Izuku had admitted that Yuuei would present its heir tomorrow; a half lie, a half truth. It kept his friend’s trust, if nothing else, that he would tell them this when no one else knew. He was battered by questions and he answered them confidently. He had had several talks with Mirio throughout their journey and knew enough about him that it looked as though Izuku had known of Mirio’s existence longer than two months. Tenya seemed the most excited to meet him, while Eijirou seemed the most nervous. That, they all found out, was because he was absolutely terrified of attending the Kings’ Summit as a king for once. Gone were the days that he would be able to lounge around with them and leave the bureaucracy to his father. Izuku had pulled him into a hug there, Ochako quickly joining.

But that had been yesterday and now Izuku had been summoned by Tsuyu to meet with Ochako. Thanking her as he was deposited at the door, Izuku made an aborted sound when she made to leave.

“Deku?”

Izuku pointed at the door between them. “This is...O-ochako’s chambers, yes?”

“Of course.”

“Then…” Izuku sat himself down. “Forgive me, but I will not enter until both you and Yuuga are present. It would be...dishonourable to do otherwise. Ochako’s reputation might be…”

Tsuyu smiled widely and Izuku wondered if this had been some sort of test. If it was, he’d passed. “Good answer! I will fetch Yuuga now.”

Yuuga must have literally been waiting around the corner and if that didn’t confirm that this had been a test, Izuku didn’t know what did. He thanked them both and promised to be as quick as possible, as they were undoubtedly as tired as he was. Yuuga’s thanks followed him as he stepped inside. Ochako was seated on a cushion, a low table between her and the hearth. She gestured for Izuku to bring another cushion over and join her, which he did. The cushion sunk under his weight and Izuku floundered, Ochako laughing. He playfully kicked her with his foot.

“Ochako please; I’m drowning!”

“You are not!” she said with a roll of her eyes, helping him up nonetheless with a touch of her quirk.

Settling in more comfortably, Izuku waited for Ochako to come to him, as she always did. And she did, shifting closer and bumping their shoulders together. It wasn’t without a sigh though, Izuku looking down at her in concern. “Ochako?”

“Mm, nothing,” she murmured. “Just...we all knew it would happen but...it feels weird to have a Kings’ Summit and not be in everyone’s company.”

Izuku could only agree, dropping his cheek onto her head. “And with Eijirou as king, it is harder again.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Ochako admitted. “I...I mean, Eijirou will be - is - a great king but…”

“But he deserved to...to be prince a little longer,” Izuku provided when she stumbled.

“Yeah,” Ochako sighed. She then seemed to shake the topic away, giving Izuku a grin that could only mean bad news. “Speaking of princes...You and Shouto. Don’t think I haven’t noticed there is something between you.” She tugged his hair playfully. “So tell me, Deku, you minx.”

“Tell you what?” he asked bitterly. “That we courted for eighteen months before I was denied marriage because I am a quirkless, Yuueian commoner?”

The instant he said it, he regretted it. Izuku quickly put his hands on his knees and bowed deeply. “S-sorry! That was...I-...it’s highly inappropriate!”

“Deku. I’m going to murder him.”

Ochako,” Izuku groaned, burying his head in his hands. “Don’t. P-please. That’s why...Shouto and I are friends still and I...I don’t want this to come between us.”

“But Deku,” Ochako said, trying to pry his hands away and failing. “Eighteen months is no short amount of time. If-”

“Ochako,” Izuku repeated, more tired this time and making her stop. “I have heard this. M-many times. And maybe Shouto was but I...I am a commoner. I should have...It was obvious.”

Ochako wrapped her arms around him. She didn’t say anything but she didn’t need to, her comforting presence being enough. That was probably why a few tears dripped down his face, Ochako making a pained sound and wiping them away with her sleeve. Izuku leant in closer, taking a few shuddering breaths until he felt more in control.

“Oh! And Eijirou…” Ochako suddenly realised. “Deku, that must-!”

Izuku managed to lift his head there, chuckling. “Actually, I’m happy about that,” he admitted. “Kacchan...he needs someone like Eijirou and Eijirou...Kacchan is rough but he will never let Eijirou doubt himself. They’re good together.”

“Wait...Kacchan…” Ochako tapped her chin before aiming an accusing finger at Izuku. “Deku, that was your best friend! He…” She erupted into laughter. “I can’t believe you set him up with a prince but couldn’t get your own!”

Izuku pouted, shoving her lightly. “Well maybe I want a princess.”

Ochako scoffed. “Please, you have as much interest in me as I in you. It is like you and Eijirou. To love someone and be in love are two very different things.”

Izuku chewed that over. “Huh. I...That makes a lot of sense.”

“Of course it does!” Ochako said, pretending to be affronted. “Now, it is past midnight. I will have Yuuga show you back to your room.”

Izuku stood with a bow, thanking Yuuga as he looped their arms and led them back to the Yuueian quarters. He talked flamboyantly of Urati silks and satins, Izuku nodding along as though he understood. When he finally reached his room, Izuku all but collapsed onto the bed provided. Within seconds, he was asleep.

 

***

 

Izuku didn’t know what time it was when he was suddenly jarred awake. It took him a few seconds to realise why he had woken in the first place. It was bells, bells tolling and someone screaming.

“Murder! Murder in the palace!”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

“Murder! Murder in the palace!”

Izuku was scrambling out from beneath his blankets the second the call reached his ears. Before he’d even gotten his bearings, his door was thrown open, seemingly by itself. He recognised that quirk, Inko’s face drowning with relief when she saw him alive and well. He hurried to her side, hugging her quickly before pulling her to the door.

“Papa?” he asked.

His mother turned faintly pink and went to answer but Izuku shook her off, saving them both the embarrassment. He didn’t care where she had been - which is exactly where she always should have been - as long as it meant his father was safe. In the hallway, the Yuuei section of the palace was alive with movement and that could only mean one thing. Whoever the victim was, they were Yuueian.

Dread suddenly slammed into him.

“No…”

“Izu-...Deku!”

His mother called for him but Izuku was already sprinting down the hallway to his left. One turn, then another, and he saw his father crouching in a doorway; the doorway he’d been dreading. Toshinori’s eyes narrowed at the sight of him. “Don’t let him see.”

Izuku growled, launching himself forward. He felt Aizawa’s capture weapon curl around his limbs but Izuku fought against them, reaching the room in question and feeling his heart drop into his feet because...Mirio. Togata Mirio, the so called heir of Yuuei, was dead. His lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling, blood pooling from the wound in his chest. Red wine mixed in seamlessly and even Izuku could see it for what it was: poisoning, and then a stabbing just to make sure.

His eyes flicked to his father, burning. “You knew! You-”

“Deku, not now,” Toshinori bit out.

Izuku struggled against Aizawa further, tears burning because it wasn’t...it wasn’t fair! A hand was on his shoulder and he fought against it, flinching at the voice right in his ear. “Izuku, are you alright?”

The question shocked him from its ridiculousness alone. He rounded on Hitoshi with a glare. “Hitoshi, you think I-”

Snap.

It had been eleven years since Hitoshi had used his quirk on him but Izuku still remembered the odd, disconcerting feeling. And now, here it was again, muffling everything around him until all he could concentrate on was Hitoshi’s hand in his and his voice in his ear. “Hold my hand and let me lead you from here.”

Izuku was powerless to resist, vaguely aware of being pulled past people until he was brought to what he could only assume was Hitoshi and Aizawa’s room. Neither bed looked slept in and papers were scattered over a desk, obviously abandoned in a hurry. Hitoshi sat him down on the bed, kneeling in front of him and cupping his face.

“Izuku, if you’re going to have a break down, have it now.”

Again, an order but Izuku couldn’t describe how painful it was to suddenly have all his emotions rush to the surface until all he could do was give great, gasping sobs. Hitoshi didn’t even try to stop him, just squeezed his hand and rubbed his back until Izuku had nothing more to give. Until he could only whine and sniff, hands clumsily cleaning his face. The door to the room suddenly slammed open and Izuku felt the surprise ripple through him, though his body didn’t so much as jump. He felt more than saw Hitoshi scowl, wrapping an arm around Izuku’s shoulder’s protectively.

Leave.”

The word was an order and it may have worked had Hitoshi not been facing down four royal children who were good at giving orders but not following them. Seeing that they weren’t going to, Hitoshi turned to Izuku instead. “Ignore them.”

Izuku found his eyes shying away, Hitoshi coming to stand in front of him. “Deku has just lost a close friend. He does not desire your company right now.”

“And who are you to decide that?” Ochako demanded.

“Hitoshi,” Shouto murmured, taking two steps forward with eyes that were stony. “Deku calls you his friend. We are the same then. You do not speak for Deku.”

Hitoshi returned his gaze lazily. “You? A prince who led him on for near two years only to deny him marriage because he was quirkless?” There were a few gasps. “You are no friend.”

Eijirou rounded on Shouto but before he got to speak the doorway was filled with All Might, his presence loud and commanding. What made everyone freeze though was that, for once, he wasn’t smiling. His arrival was also timed perfectly with the loud ringing of a bell.

“That is the emergency summons,” Eijirou said, stunned. “The kings...they must meet now.”

“Yuuei has just…” Tenya trailed off under All Might’s gaze, bowing stiffly. “I apologise for your kingdom’s loss.”

All Might nodded before clapping a hand on Eijirou’s shoulder. “Son, an emergency summons requires you as well.”

Eijirou sucked in a sharp breath before paling. He then cleared his throat, nodding succinctly and making for his quarters, no doubt to change into royal attire. All Might took them all in in a long look, Izuku feeling that look linger on him. “You are all dismissed. For your own safety, return to your chambers. Hitoshi, you know your orders.”

That got Hitoshi a few quizzical looks but his face gave nothing away. He waited until everyone had left before taking a seat against the headboard, dragging Izuku to his side. He tucked him in close before dropping his control. “I’m sorry,” he muttered into Izuku’s hair. “I’m sorry.”

Izuku couldn’t answer, just curling in closer despite the bile clawing its way up his throat. “It is not your fault,” he managed to choke out because no, it wasn’t.

 

***

 

The door to Uravity’s main hall was thrown open as Toshinori strode in. Tsukauchi and Aizawa were at his side, though they both hung back as he took his seat. The spot to his left sat glaringly empty, everyone’s eyes quickly darting away. Eijirou looked the most uncomfortable, almost shying away at the oppressive air. Toshinori wasn’t going to have that though. He also wasn’t going to play this game anymore.

“Yuuei’s alliance with Endeavour is over.”

Silence rocked the table. There was no surprise from his companions but he could see the shock on every other face.

“Toshinori, this is madness!” Kaito cried. “You cannot-”

“Cannot what?” he demanded, voice cold as ice. “End an alliance when its terms have been ignored for years? Cannot chose to disassociate myself from someone who has just carried out the death of my successor?”

Yells of protest came at that. “What ravings are these?” Enji demanded. “You accuse me of killing this boy you presented? Where is your proof?”

“Where was yours that Stain was Yuueian?” Toshinori countered. “Or did you forget that his heritage was more of your kingdom than mine?”

Enji sneered. “You accuse me of worse.”

Toshinori held his ground. “You think I have not held Mirio back all these years because I knew this would happen? That, when revealed, you would do something like this? Why, the second I even spoke about presenting him here, I received word of the plans you would put into play.” He spread his hands. “And they have come true.”

Enji’s hands curled into fists. “You accuse me of having spies within your walls and then incriminate yourself.”

Enough,” Himawari snapped, waving a hand. “Let us all not pretend any further. That we have members of our own within each other’s kingdom is no great secret. Only a fool would not know it. But, if Toshinori’s men have revealed a plot to him and that plot is then carried out…”

“Who is to say he did not carry the plot out himself?” Enji countered. “To paint me in a bad name?”

Toshinori clenched his teeth so hard he feared they might shatter. Instead, he rested his elbows on the table, propping his chin atop his hands. “And what say you to the attempt on my servant’s son, Deku, some seven years ago? When you ordered him drowned. Or when, eleven years ago, your men lit fires throughout Yuuei in an attempt to flush out an heir that did not exist? Do you think I do not know how many children went missing that year?” His eyes flicked to Himawari. “I know Uravity was kind enough to shelter some of my people, in their time of need. I believe Red Riot’s fiancé was among them.”

Katsuki had been, he knew that, but Eijirou clearly hadn’t. He looked at King Seiten and Queen Himawari with fresh respect and gratitude, bowing his head every so slightly. Toshinori had to bite back a smile. He had to play off Izuku’s reach here, turn them against Enji. It was a dangerous game but he’d long had it planned, had envisioned it over and over.

“This is preposterous!” Enji cried, hands slamming into the table.

“But…” Eijirou’s voice was quiet, uncertain. “After my father fell, Riot was...there was some unrest. At the same time, our mines, along the south-eastern border, began to experience explosions. I know, it was likely the wrath of the gods,” he said, staring at his hands, brow furrowed. “But there was also word that it was Endeavour’s doing. It…” Eijirou glanced at Toshinori briefly. “I cannot deny these circumstances are similar.”

Enji spluttered at the accusation but Toshinori held up a hand, completely calm as he placed his trump card. “My main reason has weighed on my mind many years and I cannot believe it has taken my conscience so long to catch up with me.” He wasn’t even faking the pain in his voice there, it was all real. “And my reason is this: I cannot ally with a kingdom that is so barbaric that those without quirks are burnt at the stake.”

Toshinori!” Seiten’s voice was horrified. “You go too far! Such a claim is-”

“I agree, that’s too much!” Miho agreed, though there was something in her voice.

“But they do.”

Everyone froze, turning to Eijirou. He didn’t back down this time; if anything, he was only bolstered in his resolve.

“King Eijirou?” Himawari asked.

“You know of no such thing,” Enji scoffed.

Eijirou frowned at him. “Maybe not, but your son does.” More silence. “And Shouto admits the law is real. That he has seen it been carried out.” He turned to the Urati and Ingeniun royalty. “Ask Ochako and Tenya, if my word is not enough. They were there. They were also quite angry when they found out.”

“Enji…” Kaito had lost all colour, hands shaking. “It cannot…”

Eijirou waved a servant over. “Prepare my party for immediate departure and summon Katsuki.” He met everyone’s gaze coolly. “I think, in light of tonight’s events and what I have heard, Riot will be cutting ties with Endeavour too.”

That drew more shouting and soon the whole table was a cacophony of noise. Accusations and denials were being thrown left, right, and centre. The five kingdoms would be thrown into chaos if this all went through but it needed to happen, Toshinori knew that. For too long had Endeavour controlled the board, shifting the power to where it needed to be.

Toshinori didn’t know how long they’d been arguing, only knew that it stopped when King Enji’s comment of, “You are nothing but a boy!”, was met with a loud explosion that had everyone dropping back into their seats.

“Eijirou is a king,” the words were snarled and they rang so powerfully coming off Katsuki’s lips. “His rank is the same as yours.”

His appearance seemed to render everyone speechless and Toshinori wasn’t surprised. Katsuki, in Riotian clothing, was a sight to behold. The power in his muscles was on display and left no question to his strength. His quirk bounced in his palms and his face was tight angles and scowling looks. If it wasn’t for his colouring, you wouldn’t believe he was Yuueian at all. Toshinori mentally scoffed at that; Yuuei had always been strong, everyone had just refused to acknowledge it. Now it was in their face and they had no choice.

Katsuki’s hands came to rest on Eijirou’s shoulders, grin wolfish. “You were saying, Ei’?”

Eijirou didn’t say anything but the change in him was noticeable. “I have already said what I needed to.” He met Katsuki’s gaze. “Your kingdom and mine have broken alliance with Endeavour.”

Katsuki merely raised an eyebrow. “Because he tried to murder Deku or…?”

“Amongst other things,” Eijirou replied, Katsuki nodding and, when his eyes found Toshinori’s...ah, he knew then. Him, but not Eijirou. Toshinori wondered how much he knew, how much he had since put together.

“Deku,” Miho whispered under her breath, hands stilling when she saw the Ingeniun necklace Katsuki was wearing, clearly recognising who had once owned it and where it had come from.

“Toshinori, Eijirou,” Seiten pleaded before she could speak. “Do not do this.”

Toshinori felt for him, knowing Uravity’s position but he simply shook his head, getting to his feet. “My treaty with you, as well as Ingenium and Riot, remains. But this, Seiten, has become a decision I cannot refuse to make. I’m sorry, but this is how it must be. This is how I can best serve my people.”

“Our people,” Eijirou echoed, also standing and bowing. “I am sorry this Kings’ Summit has been cut short but I take my leave.”

“As do I,” Toshinori said.

There was nothing more to be said, the parties dispersing. Uravity announced the Kings’ Summit over - doing otherwise would be choosing a side. Their parties began preparations to leave, Toshinori overseeing them from the reception room that had been allocated to him. His party would leave the following morning, Mirio to be laid to rest inside Uravity’s palace grounds. A marker in Yuuei would be set for him also. Toshinori spied Izuku helping his mother pack, wincing when the boy shied away from Hitoshi. A heaving sigh escaped him. He foresaw a great many apologies on the horizon.

The door behind him slid open without announcement, Toshinori pausing when he saw Queen Miho of Ingenium there. She gave him a calculating look before saying the words that snatched the air from his lungs. “It’s Deku, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” he lied.

Miho’s lips pursed. “He is a servant’s son who has attended every Kings’ Summit and is continually where he shouldn’t be. He is close with Eijirou’s partner and I have no doubt who introduced them. I also am not blind as to how a conversation regarding Endeavour’s laws on quirkless people would come about without him.” She eyed him up slowly. “I have met that boy and he is good, but the position you’ve put him in? You’ve made him nothing but a liar. I won’t give him away,” she said as she turned. “But when he comes to us, do not expect us to be hospitable.”

Toshinori’s shoulders dropped as the door closed, eyeing Izuku up sadly. Her words confirmed what he already knew; he’d waited too long.

 

***

 

Three days into their journey back to Yuuei and Toshinori wasn’t surprised to be led away by Izuku one morning before the sun was up. He’d seen Hitoshi and Izuku argue vehemently the day before, away from the camp and while it didn’t come to blows, it had looked close. Hitoshi, for once, had come back looking remorseful and Izuku, just as surprisingly, had not been in tears. But then Toshinori had seen his eyes and oh, Izuku was too angry for tears. That had to be a first. And it was also terrifying. In that moment, he had looked so much like Inko.

Which was why Toshinori had taken them as far away as he had. Because he knew how volatile Izuku was right now and Toshinori didn’t blame him one bit.

He held out his hands. “Speak, my boy.”

“You knew, didn’t you?” Izuku’s tone was so, so accusing. “You knew that Endeavour was going to attack the heir, didn’t you? It’s...it’s what Aizawa told you.”

“Yes, it was.” There was no point in lying, the truth was obvious.

Izuku’s hands balled into fists. “And Mirio? He was...the most believable...s-sacrifice?”

“Izuku…” Toshinori sat himself down, indicating for Izuku to do the same. There was a moment of hesitation before he did so, though he pointedly looked away. “Mirio was not a last minute decision. He was one of three candidates I’d always considered.”

Izuku’s head snapped up there, Toshinori curling in on himself guiltily.

“You remember, perhaps, or maybe rather you don’t, when you were six...both you and Katsuki were terribly ill.”

Izuku vaguely remembered that but his memories of the time were so blurry and feverish that he’d long since forgotten.

“Your mother…” Toshinori’s hands shook. “Your mother admitted to having been putting aside money to...to buy your coffin.” Izuku froze. “Mitsuki was the same, I believe she said. You bounced back after a long three weeks but at that time, with such uncertainty in the air, that I was pushed into finding an heir. Mirio was one of three that were chosen. They were never told,” Toshinori said. “Because I wanted them the option of choice, should it arise, but the time for choice was over. And...Mirio, I liked him the most.”

“And you...you sent him to his death,” Izuku forced out.

“I chose him…” Toshinori gasped. “Because I thought he had the best chance.” Izuku’s breath caught, a trembling hand finally settling on his knee. “I thought...with his quirk, he would…”

Izuku bowed his head, weighted by his own shame. “Papa…”

“I warned him. When you went to find Katsuki, I warned him there would likely be an attempt. It seems...my warnings weren’t enough.”

If Izuku had been holding onto his control, he lost it there. His arms were flung around Toshinori’s neck, Toshinori holding him steady with shaking arms. They were more skin and bones than they’d ever been, Toshinori feeling their frailty and swallowing down his pride. His time to rule would soon end. He could only hope to see it out properly.

He pushed Izuku back, thumbing away his tears. “You realise, Izuku, we are now at war with Endeavour.”

Izuku set his shoulders. “I think, Papa, we always were.”

Izuku got to his feet then, pressing their foreheads together and bumping their noses. Toshinori pulled him down further to brush his lips across Izuku’s forehead. “You never cease to make me proud, Izuku. I hope you know that.”

Izuku blushed, helping him up. “Well, I suppose, ah-...that is...well, you’ve always been my hero, All Might.”

Toshinori smiled softly, ruffling his hair. “Come Izuku, let us return to camp. We have much to do.”

 

***

 

Luckily, for all of them, the Kings’ Summit backed onto winter. No one was foolish enough to go to war in winter; no, war would wait until the year’s crops had been sown and spring was turning into summer. It also meant Izuku’s twentieth birthday was able to pass without the threat of war looming directly over their heads. Yes, it was there, but not directly so. Izuku was able to have a small feast in his honour, his family and closest friends within Yuuei at his side.

Spring had brought a hesitant beginning but war was held off by King Eijirou’s wedding. Realistically, it was Endeavour’s best chance to attack but with Shouto in attendance of the wedding, it was too dangerous. One wrong move on Enji’s part would have Shouto taken hostage and the threat of execution looming over his head. Yes, Eijirou would never execute his friend, but that didn’t mean others wouldn’t, or that the Riotian council would not make the decision for him.

Izuku had gone, naturally, invited very specifically as Katsuki’s personal friend. He was more obvious than usual without the threat of Enji looming over his head. Masaru and Mitsuki had smothered him plenty, having not seen him in near five years.

“He didn’t shoot up anywhere near as much as I expected,” Mitsuki had mused to Inko, checking no one was looking before pointing to Toshinori, currently in his muscle form. “Obviously didn’t inherit his father’s height.”

Inko had blushed but put on a sigh. “I will admit, he could be taller.” Mitsuki had laughed, Inko swatting her. “I remember you once telling me you’d have to “make do” with Katsuki.” Inko had then gestured around them. “He is about to become a prince, married to one of the most powerful and yet kind men in the world. I think, in the end, the gods blessed you after all.”

Mitsuki had eyed her up before finding Katsuki, gaze softening. “Well, they took their damn time about it.”

But that had been spring and the seasons had shifted to summer and just like that the reports started coming in:

Endeavan forces had crossed the northernmost part of the border. They were at war.

Toshinori gathered Tsukauchi and summoned Izuku. He wasn’t too surprised when Izuku arrived with Hitoshi on his heels. Hitoshi clearly was to Izuku what Tsukauchi was to him. He then raised an eyebrow at the tiniest mark peeking out from Izuku’s collar. That brought back memories indeed. Still, he cleared his throat and led Izuku over to the map in the centre of the room. It was filled with figures depicting their armies. Izuku’s breath drew in immediately.

“Endeavour has crossed the border.”

“Yes,” Toshinori confirmed. “As such, war is upon us. As king it is my duty to go and fight alongside my army.” He clapped Izuku’s shoulders with heavy hands. “You know what this means, Izuku.”

Izuku’s features pinched in confusion before going white, hastily backing away only to bump into Hitoshi. “Papa, no…” He sounded rattled, panicked.

“It is just for a time,” Tsukauchi assured, Izuku paling further.

“B-but, I...I am...I have not…”

Toshinori and Tsukauchi shared looks. “Izuku, you have trained for this,” Toshinori reminded gently.

“But I’m not ready!” Izuku protested, shaking his head furiously.

“Was Eijirou ready?” Hitoshi’s voice cut through Izuku’s panic like a knife, Toshinori mentally slapping himself that he had not thought of such an argument. “You, at least, know your father is coming back.”

Izuku looked up at Toshinori through eyelashes clumped with tears. “You will promise to come back Papa?”

“Izuku, I will do everything in my power to return to you,” he swore, drawing him into his arms. “Would you, I wonder, be more comfortable if I appointed Sorahiko to run the kingdom in public while you pulled the strings from behind?”

Izuku paused before nodding, fists tight in his jacket. “Please Papa.”

“Tsukauchi.”

“Of course, sire.”

Tsukauchi left the room and, with a look, Hitoshi did too. Toshinori sat Izuku in a chair before crouching down in front of him, combing his hair off his face. “Izuku, my boy, time is running out. You have lived in my shadow too long, become complacent there. I am growing old, my son. I would like to see you succeed before passing on, knowing that I have guided you and shaped you well enough.” He rested his palm on Izuku’s cheek. “My dear boy, you can rule, you were born to rule. And not as Enji does, and not as I do, but as you will, Izuku. Your mother has shaped you into something no king has ever been before.”

Izuku frowned. “What Papa?”

Toshinori pressed their foreheads together. “Why, incredibly kind, of course.”

Izuku flushed, leaning further into him. “I am...scared Papa.”

“As was I. As am I,” Toshinori corrected, eyes sinking shut. “Izuku, I live in fear every day of making a wrong choice but I cannot let that rule me. That is why I smile, even when things are bad. It inspires faith and hope. You will be that one day,” he murmured, bowing his head and letting it rest on Izuku’s hands. “You will be our symbol of peace.”

“Papa, you say t-too much!” Izuku squeaked, Toshinori chuckling.

“And yet none of it is a lie.” He pushed himself up, muscles aching as he did so. “My army will depart some three days hence. Sorahiko will take the throne in my absence. But, when I return Izuku, you know what conversation we must have.”

Izuku nodded solemnly. “Yes Papa.”

Toshinori left, Izuku standing in silence for several minutes until Hitoshi returned. “Need something my prince?”

Izuku shook his head, lips finding Hitoshi’s cheek swiftly, absently. “No...not yet.”

“Not yet,” Hitoshi drawled. “That hardly fills me with confidence.”

Izuku allowed himself to poke his tongue out before sliding into a chair, hands steepled. Eventually, “...bring me parchment please. I need to convince Katsuki to change a law for me.”

 

***

 

The war with Endeavour did not pass quickly. The entire summer passed and autumn’s harvest was nearly halfway through before Toshinori’s return was announced. And it wasn’t announced the way it should have been, no. It was done under darkness, people Izuku had never met before smuggling what could have been his father into the castle. Recovery Girl was summoned, along with every healer in Yuuei’s capital. Doors were slammed, curtains drawn, voices hushed and harried. The trail of blood to the infirmary sent chills down Izuku’s spine. He was locked out, a nobody in the staff’s eyes. His mother was too, only Sorahiko being allowed in, Aizawa tailing him because where else would he be?

Izuku was told nothing. His mother was told nothing. Hitoshi was told nothing. And every day brought Izuku lingering longer and longer at the circlet on his desk. He felt, very soon, he might need to discard it and replace it for something...more. He could only hope he was wrong.

Then, on the evening of the third day, he was summoned from his quarters by Tsukauchi, the manservant clearly just returned, the army on his heels. “He is asking for you,” was the only explanation he got.

Izuku bolted.

With his quirk activated no one could catch him and Izuku flung the door open without remorse. A few of the healers’ eyes widened at his quirk, looking between Izuku and Toshinori but Izuku didn’t care because his father was alive. Frail, drawn, near lifeless but he was alive and looking at him.

Toshinori gave the healers a stern look. “On pain of death, nothing you hear here is repeated. Do I have your word?”

They all nodded and that was all Izuku needed. “Papa!” he cried, launching himself onto the bed and sobbing loudly. Toshinori drew him close, fingers running through his hair.

“Hush now Izuku, hush. As you can see, I am alright.”

“No you’re not,” Izuku whimpered, not caring how childish he sounded.

“Toshinori?”

Toshinori’s bottom lip wobbled traitorously there, holding out an arm and fighting back tears himself when Inko fell into it. “I’ve worried you all. I’m so sorry.”

“How is he?” Izuku asked, turning to the healers. “What happened?”

The healers looked between Izuku and Toshinori uncertainly. “Sire…?”

“Oh for heaven’s sake, he called All Might his father, that’s proof enough,” Chiyo said, bustling her way between them. “Plus, I’ve known the little sprout since he was but five years of age.”

Izuku managed a smile there. “My head still hurts from our first encounter.”

“Wasn’t me that did it,” she quipped, her expression suddenly turning solemn. “Still, I won’t lie. Two days ago I was near about to send for you to say your last goodbyes. Luckily, Toshinori’s stubborn enough.”

Izuku had locked up, Inko losing all colour. She held her husband tightly. “His injuries...They were so severe?”

Chiyo approached the bed, lifting up Toshinori’s shirt and revealing the mass of scarring. Most was hidden by bandages but that was somehow worse. Because what Izuku could see was terrifying enough. That there was more underneath that was inevitably more life-threatening...Yes, he was lucky his father was still here.

“Who did this?” Inko breathed, touching the dressings tenderly.

“We never learnt his name,” Tsukauchi reported. “But his quirk was impressive. After his attack on Toshinori, he was cut down.”

“That is some relief,” Toshinori said, wincing when he tried to move. “As long as he is taken care of, he cannot harm others. I dread to think what would have happened had I not been there.”

“We would have lost a great deal more,” Tsukauchi replied. “I am only glad you’re safe.”

“What are our next steps?” Inko asked, question aimed at Chiyo even as she dabbed a towel at Toshinori’s forehead gently.

“He starts his recovery, as slow as it will be. Whether Toshinori ever regains his full strength, well…” Chiyo shrugged. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Izuku was used to waiting, he had waited all his life. Curling into his father’s chest more and letting his heartbeat send him off to sleep, Izuku knew he could wait a little longer.

 

***

 

They waited two months but it wasn’t enough, Izuku knew that. His father’s strength, even with the help of Recovery Girl, was not what it used to be. And, from the looks of it, it never would. The amount of time Toshinori could spend in his muscle form was less than two hours; not long enough to hold a meeting and certainly not long enough to fight a war. He coughed and hacked and his laundry was often full of bloodied handkerchiefs.

The time it would seem, had come.

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind as to why this meeting was being held. Toshinori sat at one end of the table, Izuku at the other. Tsukauchi sat at Toshinori’s left, Hitoshi at Izuku’s. Inko sat to Toshinori’s right but her gaze kept sliding down the table. Izuku had foregone his page uniform and was dressed in clothes he had only worn once before; though these were new, made to his size. He was, for the second time in his life, dressed as a prince. He kept his hands steady as council members filed in one after the other, Aizawa the last and dropping down at Izuku’s right, a large tome in his hands. Everyone’s eyes looked between Toshinori, Inko, and Izuku in varying stages of realisation.

Toshinori skipped the formalities, merely gesturing with a hand. “My son, Izuku, Prince of Yuuei.”

There were shocked murmurs, Aizawa opening the tome he’d brought and sliding it to the middle of the table. “The records of Toshinori’s marriage to Inko and of Izuku’s birth two years later are recorded there.”

An elderly man picked up the book, examining it closely. He flipped to the previous page before nodding. “My seal is here, marking myself as a witness to Toshinori’s birth. The book is not a forgery. And this writing is old.” His fingers ran over Izuku’s name. “It matches the boy’s age. As, obviously, does his appearance.”

A few others nodded, another shaking his head. “But we have never heard of him! Yes, All Might, I trust you, but the other kingdoms will not.”

“Ah, of course!” a woman said, snapping her fingers. “I knew you familiar. You are the boy, Deku, who attends the Kings’ Summits. A playmate for the royal children, was that not how it started?”

Izuku nodded there, the second man jumping back in. “Wait! So by that account, you have relationships with each heir?”

Izuku nodded again, though he met them with a stern look, something that got him a nod of approval from Toshinori. “Prince Shouto considers me his closest confidant, it was I who introduced King Eijirou to the now Prince Katsuki. Princess Ochako is a dear friend of mine and I fought with Prince Tenya to defeat Stain. I have their trust.” His brow furrowed further. “However, do not think I will use this as a tool or play it to our advantage. I have and always will be their friends first.”

“Izuku’s move is a smart one,” Toshinori cut in severely when protests made to start. “It was his friendship and nothing else that had Riot cutting ties with Endeavour alongside us. What he brings in friendship is more than our shaky peace treaties ever could.” Toshinori then stood, swapping into his muscled form. “Which is why this decision has been made and is being announced: on Izuku’s twenty-first birthday some six weeks hence, he will be crowned Prince Izuku. His name will ring first throughout Yuuei before messengers are sent to the other kingdoms. It is right that Yuuei should hear this first.”

“And should the other kingdoms react poorly?”

“We have connections,” Aizawa answered, leaning back in his chair. “Our spy network will receive the news once this meeting is adjourned. It will be spread along until every Yuueian in every foreign capital knows. We will then be ready to monitor reactions and send word should things go south.”

“We expect Endeavour will lash out but…” Toshinori spread his hands. “We expected that regardless.”

Tsukauchi waited for Toshinori to sit back down before standing up. “If we are all agreement, this motion will be passed.”

Every hand raised, Izuku blindly reaching out under the table and finding Hitoshi’s hand. Hitoshi latched on, squeezing gently even as his other hand joined the vote. Izuku met his father’s eyes unwaveringly. Truly, they were doing this.

 

***

 

Endeavour was a good week away but if you cared little for your horse and could afford to replace it, the journey could be done in five; faster than any raven, faster than any spy network. Luckily, he cared little for his horses, as easily replaceable as they were. On the fifth day, it was simple enough to ride straight into the palace’s square, during attention to himself by the state of his horse alone. Guards came quickly, only to nod and rush away when he said he had urgent news for the king.

He was removed from his horse and marched to a council room. King Enji came in some minutes later, thoroughly displeased but that look was hardly new. He didn’t even bother to sit down, taking in his crude appearance and scoffing. “I hear you have a message. Speak.”

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, King Toshinori plans to crown his son, Izuku. It doubles as his coming of age ceremony.”

Enji stiffened there and yes, he knew why. Because that meant Izuku was twenty-one-years-old, that he had been hidden for all this time. Enji eyed him up. “What proof have you of this?”

“Only my word,” he said with a shrug before producing a piece of paper, sliding it across the table. “And this.”

Enji frowned before snatching the paper up. “What is this?”

He grinned slowly. “A list. A list of every Yuueian informant within Endeavour.”

“...what was your name, boy?”

His grin merely widened. “Dabi. Pleased to meet you, I guess.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

They had been entirely prepared right up until the moment they hadn’t been. Endeavour had descended on Yuuei in a matter of days. Izuku hadn’t even been announced to the castle staff before Endeavour was marching across their border, with their aim clearly the capital. Their full army was gathered rather than the usual raiding parties Endeavour sent out and Yuuei was woefully unprepared. Knights and knights-in-training had been sent home for the winter season, weapons had been locked away, waiting to be sharpened when spring came in and war season approached.

“They had warning.”

The snap came from Toshinori one morning and Izuku didn’t blame him because it was the only conclusion. He’d then watched Hitoshi come sprinting, murmuring something to Aizawa that had made him pale. Furious whispers were exchanged and then Hitoshi was gone, barely sparing a bow in the royals’ direction.

“Aizawa?”

The man sighed heavily. “One of our spies is missing, as is their horse. With Endeavour’s movements what they are, it’s obvious where they have gone.”

Toshinori’s jaw clenched. “I thought your men were loyal.”

Aizawa scowled back. “Obviously they aren’t. Had I had any warning before this, I wouldn’t have kept them on.”

“Who?” Tsukauchi asked.

“Dabi,” Aizawa said, running a hand through his hair. “He’s Endeavan but...dammit Toshinori, you brought him back from one of your campaigns, wounded, at the age of twelve! How was I to suspect that after nineteen years he would act?”

“It’s certainly a long game,” Izuku muttered, stepping away and starting to pace the room. “Either he has ties in Endeavour or there is something substantial to gain. I wonder if he...a family maybe? No he...he would have been too young. But still…” Izuku brought his hand to his chin, deep in thought. “If Endeavour comes here with all their might we can’t defend. We need...allies certainly. Riot is a given and Uravity isn’t in a position...Ingenium is the most loyal to Endeavour but if we-...” Izuku suddenly stilled.

“Izuku?” Toshinori asked gently, trying to not break him out of his thought pattern.

“I need to leave.”

Toshinori suddenly hacked into his hand, Aizawa frowning sternly. “Kid, running isn’t going to-”

No.” Izuku’s voice was firm, meeting their gazes evenly. “We cannot defeat Endeavour without help. As strong as Riot is, their army is small. We need Ingenium on our side. They’ve admitted they won’t work with me.”

Aizawa glanced at Toshinori, who nodded.

“But they never said they won’t help Yuuei.” Izuku held up a hand when Tsukauchi went to speak. “However, their loyalty has always been to Endeavour. I can’t reach them. Shouto can.”

Toshinori sucked in a sharp breath. “My boy…”

“King Enji will be leading the troops, he always does. Shouto will be prince regent in his stead. I...I should be able to persuade him. He...Shouto wishes for peace as much as we do.”

A long beat of silence followed, Aizawa being the first to speak. “His logic works. And if Izuku’s confident he can sway Prince Shouto, then it’s a good idea. He is right on one account: we cannot defeat Endeavour alone.”

Toshinori looked at his withered hands, head bowing in shame. “Yes, you are right. I...also like Izuku’s plan. Give me a minute with him.”

Tsukauchi and Aizawa left the room, door closing behind them. Toshinori walked to the window, Izuku on his heels. They took in the view of the capital, looking into the distance as if they could see Endeavour’s army on the horizon - they wouldn’t be visible for some time yet. All villages in their wake had been ordered to evacuate. Whether they would have homes to return to though...that was another matter entirely.

“Izuku.” Toshinori’s voice was heavy. “This task...it’s dangerous. Please, take a companion.”

Izuku shook his head. “The more people with me, the more o-obvious I am. And...and coming alone...it will show Shouto I trust him. He...I don’t know how he’ll react.”

“You intend to tell him,” Toshinori realised with surprise.

Izuku sighed, eyes sad when they found his. “It’s time. Perhaps it always has been. At least...if I tell him first, he will not…” He shrugged. Izuku then stepped into Toshinori’s arms, his father blinking before holding him tight. “It has always been Shouto.”

“Ah. You still, even after he hurt you…?”

“He is hurt too,” Izuku murmured. “And yes, always.” He pulled himself away, swiping at his eyes subtly. “Now, I have to go.” He clasped Toshinori’s hand tightly. “I will return and will do so with aide.”

“I wish you luck,” Toshinori said, pulling him in and pressing their foreheads together. “May the gods speed you on your journey and return you safe to me.”

Izuku’s nose bumped against his. “It is you who must remain safe. Hold off until my return?”

It was a question but it came out more of a plea. Toshinori was powerless to stop himself from crushing Izuku in his arms, perhaps for the last time. He didn’t let himself dwell on that thought. “I will. Now go, find your mother.”

Izuku nodded solemnly before zipping from the room. Toshinori watched him go, fighting back the shaking in his chest. He had to trust Izuku, he had to.

 

***

 

Izuku did what he could to disguise himself, dying his hair a motley dark brown and lightening his skin with various creams. His freckles were hidden and he’d pretended to be mute so as to cover his Yuueian accent. He made good time, skirting from village to village and activating his quirk as often as he could. A good fifty percent of it was under his control now, seventy in a crisis, and it made him nigh impossible to catch if he was being followed. Izuku didn’t think he was, but it never hurt to be too careful.

Reaching the capital took just under a week, Izuku finding a place to stay where he scrubbed himself clean before sneaking out the next morning. His disguise was gone because, if worst came to worst, he’d rather Shouto be able to recognise him instantly.

Izuku knew the layout of Endeavour’s castle well enough and, provided Shouto hadn’t moved, Izuku could make his way to his chambers with ease. The sun was still creeping over the horizon when Izuku found the corridor he’d been to all those years ago. As before, guards were stationed outside the door and Izuku back-tracked as he did then, slipping out the closest window and shuffling across to Shouto’s room. Pushing open the window, Izuku sat himself on the window sill cautiously. Across the room, Shouto had paused his reading and clearly knew someone was there. If he called for the guards, Izuku was in trouble but...he also couldn’t make too much noise or the guards would come in regardless.

“Who are you?”

Izuku perked up at Shouto’s voice. He wanted to handle this himself? Excellent. “D-Deku.”

Shouto whipped around, eyes widening. He took a half step towards him before abruptly changing his mind and heading to the doors to his chambers. He hastily dismissed his guards as Izuku jumped down. Shouto was then at his side, hesitating before taking his hands. “Deku, my father’s army is upon you. Why are you here?”

Izuku carefully extracted his hands, courage leaving him now that he was here. He tucked his arms close to his chest, eyes finding the floor. “Why...why is your father marching on Yuuei?”

Shouto answered easily enough, even if one eyebrow was quirked up. “Because All Might has lied about Prince Izuku.” Izuku flinched there. “He wishes to eliminate this heir as soon as possible. Plus, to lie about the existence of an heir? Foolish.”

“What-...” Izuku swallowed thickly. “What if E-...King Enji had tried to kill the heir?”

“That’s a bold assumption,” Shouto said. “My father kills those who inconvenience him and-”

“And All Might’s heir would do exactly that!” Izuku snapped, Shouto taking a step back in bewilderment. “Or do you forget Endeavour once burned Yuuei searching for said heir? What do you think your father would have done had he found them?”

Shouto’s jaw clenched. “It...it does not concern you anyway Deku.” He then suddenly seemed to see him. “I...I do not even know what has brought you here at all!”

Izuku paused before reaching for a piece of parchment. Shouto watched him in interest as Izuku’s hand flowed across the page flawlessly. Izuku slid the parchment over to Shouto when done, his name written in its traditional form for once.

出久

It seemed so long since he had first mastered it, Izuku staring at the characters with an odd feeling flowing through him. This...this was going to be his name. Shouto simply frowned at him. “Yes, it is the prince’s name. What should I take away from this?”

“Shouto, you are smart. You...you must be able to know what this means,” Izuku said, voice cracking.

Shouto frowned further at his tone, whispering the various pronunciations until he suddenly froze. His fingers dug into the table. “Deku. It can be read as Deku.” Izuku then yelped as a hand grabbed his collar and he was slammed into the nearest wall. “You.” Shouto’s voice was a hiss. “You...how can you...All these years. A liar and...and a spy!”

“Shouto, no!” Izuku cried, wincing when the grip on his neck tightened. “I have never spied on you! I am your friend, you know that! P-please, Shouto!”

“How can I trust a liar?” Shouto spat.

“And how could I trust you wouldn’t tell your father who I was?” Izuku countered. “That his attempts on my life wouldn’t escalate. I barely survived as it was!”

He then yelped as he was dropped, Shouto backing away, eyes wide with terror. “My…” It was as though he suddenly saw the situation in a new light. “My father has nearly killed Yuuei’s heir some three times. And...the man, Mirio.” Shouto paled. “Deku, you were not…”

“I was,” Izuku said, hands balling into fists. “All Might was to announce me but...he received word of your father’s plot. He...he w-wouldn’t let me be in danger like that. We...we warned Mirio.” Izuku’s voice broke. “But it wasn’t e-enough.”

Shouto’s own hands clenched before he gestured to his desk. Izuku dropped into one chair while Shouto took the one opposite him. Izuku kept his eyes on the table while he felt Shouto’s gaze on him. After a few minutes he sighed, rubbing a hand across his face before straightening. He extended a hand, Shouto taking it without thought.

“Prince Izuku of Yuuei,” he introduced. “I...I have come here on my own accord to-”

“Don’t.”

Izuku blinked, Shouto shaking his head.

“Don’t act as though we are strangers now. We…have experienced too much. I’ll admit, your revelation has taken me by surprise but perhaps it shouldn’t have.” His eyes then flashed. “Ah, your comment about your mother’s marriage now makes more sense. She is the queen then?”

Izuku flushed. “Don’t bring that up now,” he groaned. “But yes, although she has never used her position. Mama and I...we only moved to the capital when I turned fifteen and she still serves as a servant; she is bored otherwise, she tells me. We are, truly, honest country people.”

“...I assume you have a quirk too?”

“I do but...it’s still new to me,” Izuku admitted. “I’ve only had mine a fraction of the time you and everyone else has.”

“Everyone else,” Shouto repeated, leaning forward and resting his chin atop his interlaced fingers. “Who knows?”

It was a question Izuku was always expecting and, thankfully, he knew his answer was a good one. “My parents, All Might’s manservant, Kacchan...oh! His mother too, I nearly forgot. And...Aizawa and Hitoshi...though Hitoshi found out by accident.”

“So Eijirou, Ochako, Tenya? They’re oblivious?”

“Assuming they don’t have spies as Endeavour does, then yes.”

Shouto stiffened. “That messenger who appeared, he...he was a trusted Yuueian?”

Izuku scowled. “I...I know how many of my own were put to death because of him. We...we were foolish to trust him.”

He saw that Shouto couldn’t deny that. He also didn’t know what Shouto was thinking. Shouto’s fingers were steepled, clearly deep in thought. Izuku didn’t know how long they sat there. He knew better than to speak though. This was the moment Shouto’s loyalty would be decided and one wrong word could tip the scales either way. Finally, finally, Shouto leant back in his chair.

“The way my father rules is wrong.” It was a statement, a declaration. “I know he has treated Yuuei badly and gone against the peace treaties with every kingdom when it has suited. I also know,” he added firmly. “That Yuuei cannot defeat him or his army without assistance. Which, obviously, is why you are here. You need me to sway Ingenium. Uravity’s poverty makes them useless in battle and your relationship with Eijirou is unshakable.” Those mismatched eyes flicked over him. “Am I not right?”

“You are,” Izuku answered, voice unwavering.

Shouto drummed his fingers atop the arm of his chair. “Then, De-...Izuku of Yuuei, I suppose it is now...Answer me one final question: did you court me because of my position as prince? Because of the alliance it would bring?”

Izuku blinked against the hurt, voice dropping to a whisper. “I...No. I courted you Shouto, because I loved you.”

“Loved?”

He did flinch that time. “Do not toy with my feelings Shouto. You know they have not changed.”

Shouto nodded, getting to his feet. “Then my decision is made. Take the day to rest. We ride north at dawn.”

 

***

 

Being left alone in Shouto’s chambers, there wasn’t much Izuku could do. Resting did seem the best idea, considering they were apparently heading out the next day. Izuku couldn’t bring himself to sleep in Shouto’s bed but he made do with reclining across the covers. The fire in the hearth kept the winter chill out and he was able to catch a few scattered hours of sleep before Shouto returned, more sets of footsteps following. Izuku scrambled off the covers, hiding behind the garrish headboard and drawing his knife from its sheath.

There was a moment of confusion before, “Deku? I have brought Momo and Kyouka. I believe you are familiar with them.” Shouto’s voice continued to move as he clearly crossed the room. When he caught sight of Izuku, he blinked in surprise before nodding. “A good choice to not trust me blindly. But, if you come out, you will see I am not lying.”

Izuku didn’t think he was, though he didn’t slide his knife back into its holster until he had confirmed Momo and Kyouka’s identity. He greeted them both cordially enough, Shouto gesturing for the women to bring over chairs while he guided Izuku to sit next to him on the end of the bed, hands loosely clasped between his knees. “Without saying, what is said in here does not leave this room.”

Kyouka nodded while Momo turned worried, glancing between the two princes. And gods, how odd for Izuku to be able to think that. That they were prince and servant no longer, but prince and prince.

“I intend to lead a coup against my father for the warmongering way he runs this kingdom. His war on Yuuei simply for possessing an heir is proof enough of that.”

Momo reeled while Kyouka merely looked thoughtful. “I know Ingenium stays in alliance because of fear.”

“Kyouka!” Momo gasped, though she blushed under Shouto’s look. “Well, yes...That is true but-”

“You were trained to rule, were you not?” Shouto asked, not waiting for an answer. “As my personal advisor, I will leave the throne to you in my stead. I intend to have talks with King Kaito. Against the united front of Endeavour and Yuuei, I think it apparent which option he will choose.”

Izuku wondered about that, only to jerk back when he suddenly found Kyouka in his face. “This is the front of Yuuei?” Her eyes then widened. “This is All Might’s heir?”

“Hey!” Izuku pouted, folding his arms petulantly and ignoring the stunned look Momo gave him. “If you perceive me as weak it is simply because of the role I have been asked to play. I can hold my own plenty well enough.”

Momo looked over his head to Shouto, a hand pressed to her chest worriedly. “Can he?”

Shouto gave him a long look. “If he says he can, then he can.” Shouto then dismissed them with a wave. “I will make my announcement to the council tonight; I will tell them I am visiting Ingenium, they will make their own reasons as to why. Deku and I will be leaving come morning, please prepare two horses and also clothes for Deku.” Izuku was given another cursory look. “In Yuueian colours, if you can find them. Blue, if available. I won’t see him in red.”

Momo and Kyouka bowed, taking their leave of the room. Shouto then dropped his head into his hands, Izuku gently wrapping his arms around him. “I’m sorry.”

Shouto shook his head. “It always would have come to this.”

“Still, I’m sorry.”

Shouto leant on him a little more. “I see your personality was not a lie. Good. I admit to being rather fond of it.”

Izuku laughed softly. “I have been Izuku since the moment you met me, I simply held a different title. With time, you will learn that Prince Izuku and Deku, servant’s son, are the same person.”

Shouto’s hand came up to wrap around his, squeezing lightly. “I hope so.” He got to his feet, waving at the wardrobe. “Change while I am away and I shall return with supper. I...I do not assume too much in thinking you are comfortable with sharing the bed?”

He...was not comfortable but… “We have done so since we were children. I see no difference now.”

The barest smile crossed Shouto’s features. His lips found Izuku’s head before leaving, Izuku staring after him incredulously. What, in the name of the gods, was that about?

 

***

 

The journey to Riot’s capital would take near two weeks, Ingenium’s another week on top of that. Izuku and Shouto’s route was easy enough for the first few days, heading straight north. The decision would eventually have to made though over which kingdom they would visit first; should they shy west or continue north? It was a decision they ended up making that day, camped for their midday meal beside a stream. Izuku had managed to catch a few fish, Shouto providing the fire to cook them over.

“Does a prince really need to know how to do that?” Shouto asked in borderline disgust as Izuku set about filleting and descaling the fish.

Izuku rolled his eyes, hidden behind his hair. “I told you, I’m not a prince. I’m a country boy.”

“All Might considers you a prince.”

“Yes,” Izuku conceded, skewering the fish and hanging them over the fire. “I suppose he does and, by rights, I am. But I am the people’s prince. I have been taught to rule them from the position as their equal. I know their sufferings because I have endured them myself.”

Shouto eyed him up, those eyes piercing. “Tell me a lie you have told me.”

Izuku groaned. “Shouto, stop this. You will only create a barrier between us that doesn’t need to be there.”

Shouto showed no signs of relenting though. “Of the things we spoke of, how many did you tell All Might?”

“None.” At Shouto’s scoff, Izuku flicked water at him, making him splutter indignantly. “Did we not always agree that...that what was spoken in the circle would not leave it? I...I upheld my end. Papa, h-he knows nothing. Other than Enji’s attempts on my life. But!” he added quickly, “I did often disappear while he was nearby and he...Gods, Papa is more highly strung than Mama when it comes to me.”

He must have said it a tad dramatically because Shouto quickly hid a laugh behind a cough. Izuku grinned, turning the fish. “I can write. Did you know that? Mama taught me from a young age. I can read, also.”

“That tends to come with writing,” Shouto said dryly.

Izuku was tempted to flick water at him again but decided against it. “Other than that, I cannot think of a lie I have told you, outside of my identity. But then, that lie was told to everyone. E-even before I was given the choice. Mama…” He drew his knees up to his chest, hugging them tightly. “Mama was furious when she discovered I had told Kacchan.”

“How old were you?”

Shouto’s voice was open curiosity, Izuku smiling sadly. “I was eight. He did not...He struck me, when first I told him. He told me to never claim relationship to All Might again. We both looked up to him,” he explained, as though that made it any better.

Shouto’s frown was back. “And now? Is he aware?”

“Lies get...confusing,” Izuku murmured. “They get crossed and with Kacchan spending so much time with Eijirou, he p-put things together. But only two years ago. And he vowed to not tell Eijirou. It is purely between us.”

“I...understand All Might’s reasoning,” Shouto said at length. “But I don’t agree with it.” He brushed the matter aside though with a wave of his hand. “Let us decide our next step.”

Izuku nodded, reaching into his pack and drawing out a map. He spread it out on the earth between them, rescuing the fish from the fire before they burnt and tapping at an area. “This crossroads is some two hours travel. We must have a destination in mind before we reach it.”

Shouto studied the map closely, making a surprised noise which Izuku knew meant he’d figured out who’d drawn it; Izuku himself. “You are skilled at cartography,” he murmured. “I never had the skill for it.” His hands ran over the page before a finger rested on Ingenium. “Here. They will be the hardest to persuade.”

“I agree,” Izuku said. “So, should we not go to Riot first? If we have another alliance already, will that not make them more agreeable?”

Shouto had that look on his face that reminded Izuku that he was rarely, if ever, challenged. He bit back a despairing groan. He really didn’t need them to fight right now. “Riot will join us.” Shouto said it like it was a fact. “We would only waste time visiting them.”

“How will they form an alliance with us if we do not even ask?” Izuku countered.

“A letter will suffice,” Shouto said shortly. “Eijirou has made it clear he is on your side. And I’m sure Katsuki still feels obligated towards Yuuei. He will push until the decision is made.”

“A letter,” Izuku deadpanned. “Shouto, we’re asking them to declare war, not to, to...to have tea with us!”

Shouto’s eyes narrowed. “If they join us regardless, what does it matter?”

“Because protocol,” Izuku said, rubbing his temples tiredly. “I do not believe you have not been taught protocol and etiquette. This,” he gestured at Shouto loosely. “Is simply impatience.”

“Impatience?” Shouto scoffed.

“That or arrogance.”

You would call me arrogant. Are you unaware of how you are talking?”

“L-like you?”

“I-!”

Izuku threw his hands up. “Enough! This is hardly something for us to be fighting over.” He rolled up the map and stowed it away. “Let us assume we go to Ingenium. What will our play be? We cannot walk in and simply demand they join us. You are, thankfully, not your father but, unfortunately-”

“That is where their loyalty lies,” Shouto finished, still bristled from their argument but slowly calming. He crossed his ankles as he thought, hand running through his hair. “I wonder…Do you think Ingenium would be more likely to join if we told them of the impending alliance between Endeavour and Yuuei?”

Izuku frowned, head tilting slightly. “Alliance? There is no-...” His brain suddenly screeched to a halt. Surely he was not… “Shouto, you cannot mean…”

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Shouto said offhandedly, like he hadn't ground Izuku’s heart into dust. “Once you were all for this.”

“I was, and look where it got me.” Izuku didn’t care how bitter he sounded.

Shouto was nonplussed. “The laws of my land would not have allowed it.”

“I am Yuueian,” Izuku barked. “Already I break your laws.”

“But you are a prince. That makes all the difference.”

“And my quirk? You do not even know what it is. Or is it simply enough that I have one?” he asked coldly.

Shouto, finally, looked confused. “You have admitted you love me and I have admitted the same. With the laws now in our favour, this...you should be glad!”

Izuku flew to his feet. “I cannot believe we are doing this now! I am here to save my kingdom and you would have us bickering about...marriage, of all things! No, Prince Shouto, I will not marry you,” he growled. “For one, I do not think you would know love if it struck you across the face. What you describe, how you act towards me, that is not love.” Izuku grabbed his pack, slinging it over his shoulder. “Around you, I feel little more than a chess piece. What you feel, that is not love. And whatever it is, I do not want it.”

Shouto stared at him stonily. “Deku would have leapt at the chance to marry me.”

Izuku laughed wetly. “No Shouto, he would not have.” He untied his horse, bowing. “It seems to me our differences are too great to make our travel amicable. If you wish to return to your capital, I will not judge you. I, however, will continue on to Riot. I thank you for your hospitality thus far, Shouto.”

With that, he swung into the saddle, nudging his horse forward. He had managed to put some miles between himself and the camp before he heard the sound of Shouto approaching, hooves thundering down the track. Maybe he was immature, maybe he should have stayed, but Izuku had more on his mind than Shouto. Because of that, he abandoned his horse, quirk activating. Shouto would never catch him now.

 

***

 

Pulling tight on the reins, Shouto pulled his horse up beside Deku’s. The horse was standing there awkwardly shifting its weight from foot to foot, lost now that its rider was gone. As for Deku, there was no sign of him. Shouto swore under his breath, wishing he’d thought to even ask Deku what his quirk was. Something speed enhancing, clearly. His mind provided an image of All Might, fast as lightning and strong as the earth itself. Was that the quirk Deku had inherited?

Izuku,’ his brain sharply reminded.

Shouto sent out a burst of ice in frustration, startling his mount. He gave a soothing pat to the neck before grabbing the reins to Izuku’s horse. He tied them to his saddle’s pommel.

To think, Deku was the prince his father had torn Yuuei up over. At first, he had scarcely believed it but these past few days, Shouto had begun to see it. Deku had always been wise but Izuku was smarter again, quicker and more conniving. Where Shouto tackled things head on, Izuku had back doors and multiple plans. Nothing was straightforward with him. Shouto could see how valuable that would make him as a king, how much of an asset he really was. Facing Izuku on the battlefield would not be a fun venture.

And to think, that they could one day meet on the battlefield, as enemies. It didn’t sit well with Shouto. Deku was supposed to be soft and sweet, meek and hidden within the ranks of the servants. He was never meant to be an enemy. Shouto didn’t want him to be. Not that the idea of war thrilled him anyway. It was a waste of both life and resources. That was his goal as king: peace in his time.

Something then snapped in his mind, eyes widening. He didn’t like war but it was Deku alone who was making him act as he was now. It was Deku who had Eijirou pulling Riot out of agreements with Endeavour. Deku was All Might’s trump card; his most powerful weapon.

And, shockingly, Shouto didn’t mind it. Because Deku was his friend. Deku had had his back time and time again when he had been quirkless, the least Shouto could do was pay him back now.

With that in mind, Shouto turned towards Ingenium. It was time for him to play his role.

 

***

 

The mountains of Riot were harsh and unforgiving, Izuku covered with many cuts and scrapes by the time he arrived at the palace. His bones ached from the strain of using his quirk for so long, his stomach growled from lack of nutrients. Shouto was gone, Endeavour would have reached his father’s army by now, and he was alone. Riot, for everything that was happening beyond their borders, was peaceful. People milled about their daily lives, the only sounds being laughter and the odd, excited cry of a child as dragons wheeled about overhead; two beautiful crimson creatures that, when they landed, did so on the castle turrets. Izuku smiled softly. That made them Eijirou’s and Katsuki’s he supposed; Elspeth and Cinead, if memory served him correctly.

Reaching the main steps, Izuku was pulled up by two guards. They took in his appearance warily and Izuku realised how he must look, dressed in Endeavan clothing. “I request an audience with King Eijirou.”

“Only Riotians can ask for that,” the blond guard told him, nose twitching. “Which, you’re not.”

“We can refer you to a councilman,” the other offered.

Izuku took a deep breath. “I understand. But please, may I speak with the King? It is of utmost importance.”

The guards exchanged a look. “Look, we can’t,” the second one stressed. “I...If you tell me the issue, I can direct you to Mina. She’ll be able to find who’s best suited to attend you.”

“The issue is private,” Izuku said, head bowing. “Which, I know, only makes things worse.”

“Yes, it does,” the first guard said. “Can you not even give us a hint?”

“Denki, no!” His opposite hissed. “You know how things are with Endeavour right now.”

“If it helps, I’m not Endeavan,” Izuku cut in. He gestured at his face. “I am Yuueian. The clothes are simply borrowed from a friend.” The word friend gave him an idea. “Let us come to an agreement. Pass my name onto the king. If he agrees to see me, all the better for me. If he denies me, I will leave, no questions asked.”

Denki was nodding but his friend still looked uncertain. “I have your word you will leave?”

Izuku went to nod before pulling himself up. “No, you will have my word if I have yours that you will speak to the king, not merely pretend to.”

“Well, well, caught me out,” said the guard, thrusting his hand out. “Hanta. I like how you think,…?”

“Deku,” he supplied easily enough, shaking the hand. “Please, inform King Eijirou that Deku is here to see him. If he is unavailable, you’re welcome to try Katsuki. We’re friends, as it were.”

Hanta laughed, slapping him on the back. “I’m sure. Just like how I know every Riotian! Still, a deal is a deal.”

With that, Hanta left, jogging up the stairs and into the palace. Izuku felt everything suddenly drain out of him, flopping onto the stairs. The guard, Denki, hastily crouched beside him, the back of his hand resting against his cheek. He grumbled at something. “I have your word you won’t move? You look dehydrated.”

“If you’re leaving to fetch me water, I would sit here seven years,” Izuku replied, earning him a loud laugh.

True to his word, Denki left and returned some minutes later with a pitcher of water and a cup. Izuku thanked him wearily, downing two cups before pouring a third and slowly sipping at him. Denki pinched his cheek, adding a tiny zap that made Izuku jump. “Well, that’s got some colour back into you if nothing else!”

Izuku scowled at him - though not too seriously - before getting distracted by the loud noises from behind him. Whirling around, Denki also shooting to attention, Izuku quickly found the source of the noise. From the redness of Hanta’s face and the fact that Eijirou was still buttoning his pants and wearing little more, it was obvious what he had been doing. Any other day Izuku would have been embarrassed but now all he could do was sob.

Eijirou was at his side in a moment, pulling him up and into his arms. “Hush Deku, it’s alright. You’re safe now; we have you.”

Looking over EIjirou’s shoulder, Izuku spotted Katsuki. He was in a similar state of undress and his chest was an array of colour but he was Yuueian, his friend. Katsuki gruffly held out a hand and he’d never done that before. Izuku was overcome with emotion, freeing himself of Eijirou’s embrace with a chaste kiss to the cheek before collapsing into Katsuki’s arms. Katsuki held him tight, resting his forehead against his.

Hanta stared in disbelief as Prince Katsuki led the stranger further into the palace. “Sire?” he asked.

Eijirou barely even seemed to see them, eyes locked on his husband’s retreating form. “Tell no one but you have just made acquaintance with the Prince of Yuuei.” Eijirou then straightened his shoulders, eyes hard when they met theirs. “Bolster our defences, screen all visitors. War has arrived at our doorstep.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

“Kacchan…”

“Shut it,” Katsuki growled, his arm hooked through Izuku’s and dragging him through the palace halls. They eventually ended up in a room that was much more Yuueian than Izuku expected, his eyes flicking to Katsuki. Katsuki very pointedly ignored him, dumping him on the bed without ceremony. “Sleep.”

Izuku scrambled up only to be pushed back down. “K-Kac-”

Sleep.” The word was firmer this time, though it was followed by a quiet, “You look like shit.”

Izuku knew it was true; not that that made him feel any better. “May I bathe?”

Katsuki gave a grudging nod, pointing at a door to his right. “There are clothes in the wardrobe; they probably won’t fit. But you better sleep!” he added, tone accusatory.  

“I will, I will!” Izuku assured, throwing his hands up.

Katsuki eyed him up for a long moment before finally leaving, door slamming behind him. Izuku shuffled to the wardrobe, grabbing whatever was closest without even looking. He practically stumbled into the bath chamber. It seemed whatever strength he had been living off had left the moment he’d caught sight of Eijirou and Katsuki. Izuku bathed as quickly as possible - lest he fall asleep - and threw himself onto the bed. He didn’t even remember his head hitting the pillow.

 

***

 

The room was lit by tinted lamps when Izuku next woke, telling him the sun had since set. Katsuki and Eijirou were talking amongst themselves on the other side of the room, bathed in yellow and orange from the stained glass. Izuku rubbed his eyes a few times before sitting up. Katsuki noticed him first, nudging Eijirou with his foot. He nodded in Izuku’s direction and Eijirou rushed over, throwing himself onto the bed next to Izuku. An arm slung around his shoulders and Izuku sunk into the touch.

“Thank you Eijirou,” he murmured.

Eijirou squeezed his wrist lightly. “Deku, you have always been there for me. And I will always be there for you.”

Katsuki snorted but did move closer, ankles crossing as he leant back in his chair. “You got any news?”

Izuku shook his head sadly, hands twisting together. “No, I-...I wish I did.”

Eijirou rubbed his back sympathetically. “I’m sure your father is doing everything he can.”

Ei’!” Katsuki hissed as Izuku’s head snapped up, eyes wide.

“Ah, no!” Izuku said hurriedly when Eijirou went to apologise, the king red to the top of his collar. “I...Yes, I was surprised you knew b-but now that I think on it...It is only natural Kacchan would tell you, what with you being married.”

Eijirou let out a loud sigh of relief, laughing nervously. “Thank the gods! I thought you were going to skewer me for a second but…” He took Izuku’s hand as easily as he always had. “I know what you’ve gone through, and as merely a servant. If you were prince, I imagine things would have been worse. All Might was right to hide you.”

“Even though I lied?”

Izuku hated how small his voice was. “You lied, yes, but you have been more honest than deceitful. Maybe you kept your title hidden but you didn’t hide yourself. Nothing about you is a lie.” Izuku willed away tears, even as Eijirou was ribbing him in the side playfully. “Trust me, I’ve had enough conversations about you with Brimstone. Deku is Deku.”

“Brim-”

“What did I say about calling me that?” Katsuki complained, snarling when Izuku grinned.

“It suits you Kacchan.”

As he’d expected, Katsuki launched at him. Izuku yelped, diving behind Eijirou. His friend tackled Katsuki onto the mattress, hardening when Katsuki set off explosions. “Hush,” he murmured. “You let him get to you too easily.”

Katsuki flushed there. “Shut up.”

Eijirou just tweaked his nose before turning to Izuku once more. “Your arrival is later than I would have thought. Did you go via Ingenium and speak with Tenya?” When Izuku shook his head, Eijirou suddenly went stiff. “Deku you...you did not...Tell me you didn’t go to Endeavour.”

Katsuki went rigid. “He wouldn’t-”

“He would,” Eijirou countered as Izuku folded in on himself. “Because of Shouto, am I right?”

“Not...n-not for Shouto, not in that way,” Izuku said firmly. “No, I...he and Tenya are...if anyone can convince Ingenium…”

He trailed off but Eijirou was already nodding. “Yes, that makes sense. But you are here alone.”

He paused expectantly and Izuku sighed as he sat up, knowing he had to fill the silence. “We...we disagreed quite vehemently. I do not know where Shouto has gone. It is likely that he is back in the capital, watching his kingdom in his father’s stead.”

“You think he would do that to you?” Eijirou asked quietly.

“This isn’t about me,” Izuku pointed out, voice just as soft. “This is about something much bigger than me.”

“Perhaps,” he mused. “Or it might not be.”

Izuku didn’t answer, not that he needed to because Katsuki took that moment to kick Eijirou in the thigh rather petulantly. “Who is Shouto and what am I missing?”

“You remember Shouto,” Eijirou said, capturing Katsuki’s foot and starting to massage his ankle. “He is prince of Endeavour. He has the ice and fire quirk.”

“He says you call him Half and Half Bastard,” Izuku added, Eijirou groaning in shame while the proverbial light went on in Katsuki’s head.

“Oh, him. I hate him.” Eijirou laughed again, Katsuki eyeing Izuku up before, “Wait...Oh do not...Dammit Deku! Why him, of all people?”

Izuku pouted at him. “My reasons are my own!”

“Obviously they’re not good enough or you’d have wed him already as I have!”

The words should have been expected but they weren’t, Izuku flinching and Eijirou hissing, hastily pulling Izuku to his side. Izuku went to say he was fine but Eijirou was already sharing hushed whispers with Katsuki. Katsuki’s eyes turned wide, Izuku sending him a sad smile when he awkwardly made to apologise. Eijirou added something more, Katsuki rolling his eyes and taking his leave. The door slamming behind him made the room seem all the more quiet.

Izuku already knew what the topic of this conversation was going to be but that didn’t make him any more inclined to have it. All he wanted was for-

“He wants to join this war.”

Izuku balked at Eijirou’s words, his friend smiling sheepishly.

“I...I didn’t need Katsuki overhearing this so I implied…”

“You have no idea how thankful I am,” Izuku admitted, tension dropping his frame and pulling his legs up onto the bed to cross them. Eijirou mirrored him.

“Katsuki has wanted to join this war since it began,” Eijirou said. “He may be Riotian in name now but his heart will always belong to Yuuei. Katsuki...he’s Yuueian,” he said simply. “He always has been and marrying me has not changed that. But he’s stubborn and won’t say as much. If he asked, I would.”

“Kacchan won’t ask,” Izuku said. “As much as he likes a fight, he will not risk your people.”

Eijirou sent him a commiserating look. “Which has been my dilemma.” He then grinned. “But now, you are here! To be honest, I could have declared war on my own terms, or to assist All Might, but a direct request from Yuuei’s prince...Yes, the council will like that.”

Izuku flushed, head bowing. “I know it’s what I came here to ask but, n-now that I’m here…”

Eijirou slapped his back heartily. “No, you cannot take it back now. Be a prince and rule. Tough decisions come with the job, I have learnt. Without me, your people will die. With me, yes, some of my people will die but together we may have victory. That’s the nature of an alliance.”

Izuku chuckled lightly, shifting forward to let his head rest against Eijirou’s shoulder. “When did you get so wise?”

“Ha! You are the wiser between us, you just need some courage. I can get you some of the liquid variety,” Eijirou added teasingly.

Izuku swatted his shoulder. “Do not suggest such things. This is a time for clear minds.”

Eijirou sobered there. “It is.” He then got to his feet. “A plate has been left on the table. Eat and rest once more. Tomorrow we will meet with the council. And from there, plan our next move.”

 

***

 

The next morning Izuku was dressed in clothes he realised must have been Katsuki’s. They were a little too broad across the shoulders and had colours he didn’t tend to wear but they were Yuueian in style. Izuku understood that. He was sure there were days Katsuki felt homesick quite keenly. A cape was added and Izuku realised it was meant to dictate his rank.

Stepping out the door, Eijirou was already there, Katsuki noticeably absent. Izuku raised an eyebrow at that, Eijirou shrugging. “We’re about to announce war and try to gain favour. If it were me, you, and Katsuki, it would look as though I’d been pressured.”

Izuku nodded, Eijirou’s view making sense. They entered the council room together, taking seats and waiting until everyone’s attention was caught. Izuku had never been to a Riotian meeting before and he was intrigued as to how everyone almost averted their gaze from Eijirou. He then remembered that in Riot, kings were supposedly chosen by the gods and seen as almost deities themselves. Of course the “ordinary citizens” would not meet their gazes so casually.

Eijirou swept a hand in Izuku’s direction. “This is Deku, prince of Yuuei.”

Everyone at the table started, eyes flying to Izuku. “His credentials?” someone demanded.

“My word, as well as his,” Eijirou said calmly. “And if you were to ask Prince Shouto of Endeavour, he would also confirm.”

“As would All Might,” Izuku added. “A-Although...he may be difficult to reach at this time.”

That got a few murmurs and yes, war was raging in the south. How easy it was to forget, safe inside the boundaries of Riot. It was obvious then why Eijirou had called this meeting. In the end, he didn't even have to say it. Just called over a servant to fetch a map of the five kingdoms. When they returned, the councillors and Eijirou talked logistics. Izuku was questioned from time to time - what is the terrain like here? Where would the troops likely be stationed? How fast are your messengers?

It was dark outside by the time their meeting convened, having been interrupted only once for food. Agreements were made and assignments given. As the councillors went one way, Izuku and Eijirou went another, heading for the royal wing.

“So, we ride for Ingenium in the morning?” Izuku asked, thoughts whirling through his head.

Eijirou gave a nod. “If Shouto hasn’t, we need to. Ingenium and Riot have never disagreed so hopefully they will side with me.” He then sighed heavily. “I just hope we’ll be able to recruit enough people from our own land.”

Izuku laid a hand on his arm. “You’re a good king. They will come.”

Eijirou pulled him in for a shaky hug, chin propping atop his head. Izuku hugged him in return. At dawn Eijirou’s court would send out clansman to meet with every village and to ask those who could fight if they would be willing to. There was no order, just a plea. But it would be enough, Izuku was sure. If Eijirou inspired in his people what he inspired in him, they would have nothing to worry about. Then, once Eijirou returned from Ingenium, they would come together at the border and cross over, cross into Yuuei and prepare for battle.

Eijirou eventually pulled away, patting Izuku on the back heartily. “Come to my chambers. I think it’s time you wrote to Ochako.”

Izuku flushed, quickly falling into step behind his friend. “I wanted to tell her in person but I...I think now that if I did, it would be too long.”

“Better to hear it from you than through rumours,” Eijirou stated, Izuku agreeing.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple because the moment Eijirou opened the door Katsuki was upon him, raging and yelling. Izuku quietly slipped to the side, letting Eijirou calm a seething Katsuki who had - quite frankly - been left in the dark all day and was - even more frankly - hurt that Izuku had been included when he had not. Izuku understood but it didn’t mean Eijirou’s decision had been wrong. Eijirou knew it too, capturing Katsuki’s explosions in hardened hands and talking to him calmly. Izuku watched shamelessly, fascinated as Katsuki deflated with each word, letting Eijirou bring him in inch by inch until their noses touched.

“Deku, get lost.”

Izuku rolled his eyes, snatching up the parchment and ink and heading for the door. “My name is Izuku, Kacchan. You could at least try to remember.”

Eijirou then spluttered, pushing Katsuki away and earning a yelp. “W-wait! Izuku? That’s your name?”

Izuku frowned. “Kacchan didn’t…” He then slapped his forehead. “Oh gods, you introduced me as Deku and I...I was so used to it I didn’t…”

Izuku jumped as hands suddenly cupped his face, drawing his attention up. Eijirou’s smile was blinding. “Izuku,” he breathed. “Katsuki never said.” His grin impossibly widened. “It’s like I am meeting you for the first time, Izuku.”

Katsuki groaned while Izuku bit down a shy laugh. “I am the same as I have always been.” He held out his fist, Eijirou eagerly bumping it with his.

Eijirou then dismissed him, tacking on a, “I’ll send someone from the aviary down to assist with sending your letter.” The next second, Eijirou was backing Katsuki towards the bed and Izuku decided he definitely did not want to see, or hear, anything that followed.

He also wasn’t expecting his message to be sent away by phoenix either. Riot truly was a mysterious land.

 

***

 

“Your highness, look!”

Ochako looked up from where she was currently re-working Uravity’s finances, the rains in the past two years bringing untold joy. Her parents also looked up, Seiten in dread, Himawari in worry. Ochako knew why. Phoenixes were the Riotian equivalent of an emergency summons. Something must truly be wrong for them to be sending one.

“Do you think they have been invaded also?” Himawari asked, eyeing the bird as it came in to land.

“That or this is a call to war,” Seiten said.

All three of them balked though when the bird in question landed in front of Ochako, holding its leg out primly. Ochako took the paper with care, sending Tsuyu to find the bird something to eat after its long journey. Unrolling the parchment, Ochako’s eyes went straight to the bottom, searching from a name and only becoming confused at the one she found.

“Ochako?” her father called as she hastily skimmed the page. “Who is it from?”

Ochako’s breath left in a rush. “It...it is from Yuuei’s prince.”

“I beg your pardon?” Seiten demanded, incredulous.

“What does he want?” Himawari pressed.

“Nothing.” Ochako placed the letter down with care. “He wants nothing, except for me to know his identity.”

Because he was Deku and Deku was just like that.

Ochako glanced at the finances once more. She then swept them off the table with an arm, brow furrowed. “I think it’s time we stopped standing on the sidelines and pitied our own situation. For once, there are others worse off. We cannot be left behind.”

Seiten, placing the letter down, pinched the bridge of his nose. “I know this. I think, I have always known this.”

Ochako nodded just as Tsuyu returned. She linked arms with her handmaiden. “Then summon the generals.”

Seiten held her gaze a long moment before slapping his hands against his thighs and getting to his feet. “Yes. Let us not let old men like me determine your future. Come; we have much to do.”

They headed back into the palace, Deku’s letter left where it had been opened until Himawari picked it up and tucked it into her robes. It wouldn’t do any good for the servants to find it, after all.

 

***

 

Dearest Ochako,

For many years I, Deku, have found a confidant in you. Your support has been a constant source of strength and the trust between us is not easily replicated. If only distance and circumstances had not kept us apart.

However, it is this trust that has me writing to you now. As I’m sure you will have already realised, I am in Riot. Eijirou has been most kind to me. He has also been privy to a secret of mine I wished to reveal to you in person. Time, though, would not seem to be on our side. The secret I wish to pass on is this,

My name is Midoriya Izuku and I am Prince of Yuuei, son of All Might and heir to the throne.

Already this information has started a war between Yuuei and Endeavour. If nothing else, I hope it will not do so between Yuuei and Uravity. We have already been in contact - please, check your last letters from All Might and you will see the handwriting matches. My loyalty has always been to my friends and you and I alone know the secrets we have shared. That no one else knows of them is, hopefully, enough of a testimony to my trustworthiness.

Eijirou and I ride for Ingenium in the morning. I hope, in amongst everything, that Uravity and its people will be safe.

Yours, always and sincerely,

Midoriya Izuku

 

***

 

Entering Ingenium’s palace gates was almost the same as entering a second home for Shouto. He had once also felt the same way about Yuuei’s gates but he quickly pushed that thought aside. He and Tenya had all but grown up together, his father furious when he had found more in common with the younger Iida heir rather than the one in line for the throne.

(That in itself had always had Shouto wondering if Stain had not been a creation of his father, to remove Tensei so Shouto could claim power through Tenya.)

It wasn’t any surprise that Shouto was shown straight to the throne room. His face was instantly recognisable and the guards stationed knew his position. Ingenium’s royalty were already seated by the time he arrived, Shouto making the long march down the hall on his own, bowing when he reached the steps that led to the thrones, three filled and the fourth permanently empty. Tenya gave him a grim smile but Shouto didn’t bother to return it.

“Prince Shouto,” King Kaito said, voice laced with surprise. “I thought, with your father at war, that you would remain within Endeavour’s walls.”

Shouto didn’t bite. “The throne has been left to my closest confidants and in more than capable hands. I am here because there are talks we must have.”

Kaito met his gaze coolly. “I know what your talks will contain. That the time to fight is now. That we should join you and your father in this nonsensical war.”

“Perhaps you do not know me so well,” Shouto said, returning the look with ease. “Because I am not here to recruit you to stand with my father. I am recruiting you to fight against him.”

Silence swept through the hall, even the guards against the walls stiffening. Tenya badly disguised his surprise behind a cough, Miho’s eyes narrowing. Kaito rose from his chair, descending only the first stair.

“You, a mere boy, would ask me to betray a kingdom in which I have been in alliance with for generations?”

Shouto scoffed. “You are angry when you think I am to propose we fight together but also angry when I suggest otherwise. Forgive me, but I am confused as to what you actually want.”

Kaito scowled at him. “What I want is for you meddling Endeavans to leave us alone.”

“You know we won’t,” Shouto shot back. “There is a treaty between us. Standing on the sidelines is not a choice in this war. Riot has chosen a side. Where do you stand?”

“I stand by my people and what is right for them,” Kaito answered coldly. “Which is more than I can say for you, traitor. Your very coming here is treason.”

“Then that is what I am willing to risk, to stop the Flame King. I will not unleash his horrors on other kingdoms.” He shrugged. “Yuuei is with me. I have their prince’s allegiance.” Maybe. “And so it is only you-”

Boy.” Kaito’s voice was suddenly stone, even Shouto pausing in surprise. “You mean to tell me you have met the elusive heir of Yuuei?” Shouto nodded. “Where is he now?”

“In talks with Riot. We agreed because of time-”

Kaito didn’t even care for his lie, fuming as he cut over the top. “And so this Yuueian prince thinks us so below Riot that he would not do negotiations with us? I’m sure Riot will agree, what with that harlot of a Yuueian prince that sits beside Red Riot.”

“Father!” Tenya cried, Shouto also struggling to keep his composure. “Eijirou is not like that!”

“Again, you speak too much,” Miho agreed, tone displeased. “You insult Red Riot with your words. If your anger is for Yuuei, keep it aimed at them.”

Kaito bowed his head in apology but was no warmer when he turned to Shouto. “No, Enji’s boy, I will not help you.”

Shouto could only stand there, dumbfounded. How...how had it come to this? How had he so easily been rebuffed? Surely this man could not side with the madman that was his father!

Before Shouto could open his mouth and undoubtedly make the situation worse, there was copious screaming from outside the hall, generating from the courtyard. Tenya was already on his feet, jogging to Shouto’s side and preparing to go further when he was pulled up by the sudden roars that echoed off every wall. They were loud, almost otherworldly and Shouto only knew of one creature that sounded like that.

“Dragon.”

Tenya stiffened, but Shouto knew he was right. That was only confirmed though when not one minute later the doors were flung open. Eijirou strolled in, Katsuki and Izuku on his heels. Of course he was first, he was the king. He could enter without ceremony, the same rank as Kaito. He bowed, glancing at Shouto and Tenya before turning his attention to the king.

“King Kaito. I believe, with Shouto’s presence, it is obvious why I am here.”

Kaito looked very surrounded all of a sudden, Shouto watching as Izuku and Miho exchanged looks, Izuku meekly shying away. Oh, she knew. Somehow, she knew. And from the way Izuku had started trembling slightly, he hadn’t known that. Dammit Deku!

“Perhaps,” Kaito mused. “But where is Yuuei’s prince? I heard he was with you.”

Eijirou glanced to his right, Izuku giving a shaky nod before stepping forward. Kaito paled as Izuku bowed lowly. “Prince Izuku of Yuuei, Your Majesty.”

Tenya spluttered indignantly but Shouto placed a hand on his arm, shaking his head minutely. They could discuss this later. But for now, the air was delicate and Izuku needed to not be distracted. He was matching Kaito evenly but the balance was ready to fall either way.

“You…” Kaito repeated. “You are...you’re just a servant boy!”

“Who was constantly at All Might’s side, had his particular favour, and was kept in the company of royalty from a young age,” Izuku countered, softly but firmly.

Kaito recoiled at that before narrowing his gaze. “I should have you hanged for your deception.”

“And I should have my father do the same to you,” Izuku said, Shouto reeling at the sheer power in his tone. “For imprisoning a prince and borderline starving him.”

Kaito’s jaw dropped. “But that-...I did not…!”

“You took me, me specifically, from my homeland,” Izuku stated. “You locked me away and then met with King Enji, who openly tried to drown me not one year prior. It was a perfect ruse for an assassination, don’t you think? Yuuei has long since learned spies cannot be trusted. Who is to say you did not have them and had worked out my identity?”

Kaito dropped back into his chair, white while Miho seemed to slowly be understanding All Might’s logic. “King Enji...tried to drown you? His reason?”

Izuku sharply looked to the side, teeth grinding together. “Because I was quirkless. At the Kings’ Summit in Riot, he told me I should be thankful I was Yuueian for if I was Endeavan...he would have burnt me alive.”

Miho’s eyes flew to Tenya, Shouto, and Eijirou. “So this is how you knew of that law. Deku passed it on.”

“His name is Izuku,” Eijirou corrected, as politely but as sternly as he could. “And he is ready to fight for Yuuei. In light of the differences with King Enji presented at the last Kings’ Summit, it should be obvious where Riot’s loyalty lies.” He met Kaito’s gaze evenly. “And Ingenium? Where do you stand?”

Kaito looked undecided, borderline unswayed, Shouto calculating the risks before reaching out to tap Eijirou’s shoulder. “Perhaps, before you ask so favourably, you should enquire about his words regarding your...harlot of a husband, I believe.”

Eijirou went very still. “Leave.” The word was an order. “It seems we need to have a discussion, king to king.”

They hesitated, Katsuki taking over and glaring at Tenya. “Find us a place to tether the dragons. Then get us a training field.” He jerked a thumb at Izuku. “It’s time I tested his quirk.”

 

***

 

Shouto tagged along as they headed outside. With a simple whistle, Katsuki was able to have the two Riotian dragons follow him, flying out of the courtyard and landing in a field nearby. Izuku and Katsuki were then given a separate field to train in and Shouto could only watch as green lightning flickered across Izuku’s skin. From there, he was almost too fast to follow. He moved far quicker than anything Shouto had ever seen, Katsuki having to hastily dodge more than once. His counterattacks were powerful but there was a distinct difference in speed between them.

Shouto didn’t know how long he watched them, the pair tussling back and forth. If one of them won the sparring match, the other immediately started another. He wondered if this was what was meant by friendly rivalry. Although, from the number of times Shouto had heard Katsuki yell at Izuku to “die!”, perhaps it wasn’t so friendly after all.

“I have decided,” Tenya said, coming up beside him, “That I accept Deku. It took me some time but I have...come to terms with it.”

Shouto nodded in agreement only to be smacked over the head. From the way Tenya’s did the same, he had been as well. Whirling around, Shouto saw Eijirou standing there, arms folded. “You don’t get a choice,” Eijirou said plainly. “Whether you accept it or not, Izuku is the prince. All Might will crown him regardless of your thoughts on the matter.”

“You’re very calm with this,” Tenya said with a frown.

Eijirou merely shrugged. “I’ve seen Izuku with All Might in a range of situations that don’t make sense. My own father once told me he thought All Might was making attempts to court Izuku’s mother. He was right, in a way. He did...just a lot earlier than we imagined.”

He looked out over the field just in time to see Izuku and Katsuki abandon their quirks and dissolve into good, honest wrestling. Eijirou laughed loudly.

“This is, possibly, the friendliest I’ve ever seen them.”

“This is friendly?” Tenya asked in disbelief as Izuku grappled at Katsuki’s collar and Katsuki planted a knee into Izuku’s chest.

“For them,” Eijirou replied. “Their relationship is...odd. Better now, I think, that Brimstone sees them as equals.” Eijirou then frowned at something. “Although...I thought Katsuki’s footwork good. Seeing him next to Izuku though...I’ll have to find out who Izuku trains under.”

Shouto saw that it was true, watching how lithely Izuku was able to dodge and how agile he was. He could change direction on a dime. “He is impressive,” Shouto admitted in a murmur.

“He is,” Eijirou agreed. “Which is why I’m going to ask, have you thought anymore about accepting Izuku’s proposal?”

Tenya looked taken aback while Shouto’s top lip curled. “He is no longer interested. He denied me, when I asked.”

Eijirou frowned. “Izuku did? That doesn’t...How did you ask? What did you say?”

“I told him we could be together, now that his status was revealed and his quirk known.”

Eijirou stared at him for the longest time before something akin to horror crossed his features. “Shouto, you didn’t word it like that, did you? At least tell me you told Izuku some things about him that you love!”

Shouto frowned. “I am a prince, as he is. We obviously care about each other. What more do you expect me to say?”

“Tenya, could you please leave?” Tenya hesitated before doing so, stepping towards the training field and Shouto only stopped following him with his gaze because a hand suddenly slapped him across the face. The next thing Shouto knew, Eijirou was slamming him into the palace wall closest. “Listen to me, Todoroki Shouto,” Eijirou growled. “Izuku is a dear friend of mine and not even you get to talk about him that way. He is not an advantageous piece to your game, Shouto. He isn’t your mother.”

Shouto stiffened.

“Izuku asked you because he loved you. You...gods Shouto, you make it sound like a business transaction. Or worse, that Izuku should be thankful you would lower yourself to accept him, like he’s some peasant scum. Let me tell you, Prince Shouto,” the words were all but spat. “Whether a prince or the lowest of the low, Izuku is Izuku. You marry him for his heart, for what is inside, not his rank. And never, for a second, think he should wait on you or be honoured that you would take his hand.”

“This doesn’t concern you,” Shouto snapped, pushing him away.

“Do you know Izuku has had other proposals?”

Shouto froze mid-step.

“That never occured to you, did it?” Eijirou snorted. “That others might want him despite not knowing who he really is. You should know then, that he considers one quite seriously. Izuku admits to not loving them but, you would know, marriage is not always determined by love.”

“Then if Izuku is so led by the heart as you suggest, why would he?” Shouto challenged.

Eijirou shrugged. “He may not marry for love but he would marry his best friend. Sometimes...it’s just easier.”

“Easy…” Shouto repeated, hackles rising when Eijirou came to his side, though his friend merely dropped a hand on his shoulder.

“Katsuki is a commoner,” he said openly. “Prior to him being sent to Riot, he had never set foot in a palace before. He’s forever calling our home garrish,” Eijirou tacked on with a chuckle. “Katsuki grew up with only what he needed to survive, sometimes less. Same as Izuku. He helps my people more than I ever could sometimes. Just the other month he saved a village simply by telling them to move their crops from one type of soil to another. I know nothing of things like that.”

“De-...Izuku sews,” Shouto admitted, though he didn't know why. “He showed me one time. He can also prepare a fish though that was...grotesque.”

Eijirou only laughed louder. “Katsuki surprises me with things like that too.” His voice dropped to something tender. “I...I love him Shouto. I love his laugh, as rare as it is, and how his nose crinkles when he’s displeased but can’t show it. As stupid as it is, I love our arguments, how angry he can get over things so small. I would die for Katsuki in an instant, though I know he’d never allow it. It gives me comfort too to know he would do the same and I would not allow it. I think,” he finished, eyes locked on Katsuki across the field. “That I am a better person because of him; stronger, braver, kinder. I cannot imagine my life without him now that I have met him.”

Shouto stared at him blankly. “That...that is how you feel…?”

Eijirou smiled a tad sadly. “Yes, it is. I wonder if that’s how you feel about Izuku.”

With that, Eijirou headed to the training ground, Shouto left alone with his thoughts, as wild and numerous as they were. He wondered if he felt that about Izuku too.

 

***

 

Ingenium joined.

Izuku didn’t know what had done it. Whether it was all of them arriving at once. Whether it was Tenya spending the night in talks with his parents. Or whether it was Eijirou tearing King Kaito apart over his comments. The point was, Ingenium was on their side. They were now three armies strong and Endeavour was going to be thrust into confusion when Shouto appeared on the battlefield on the other side. Shouto assured them he had factions within Enji’s men who would turn to his side once the opportunity presented itself.

Their mottled party spent three more days in Ingenium’s capital while the troops arrived before riding out. They were aiming for the tiny part in the border where Ingenium met both Riot and Yuuei. Riot’s forces were going to meet them there and Izuku would lead them down into Yuuei.

Setting up camp that evening, Izuku was helping arrange kindling in one of the fires when he heard the man opposite him suddenly gasp and stumble back. Blinking twice, Izuku made a tiny noise of understanding. “I remember you,” he said, smiling warmly.

“...I threw a knife at you,” the guard breathed, terrified.

Izuku simply laughed, eyes crinkling shut in mirth. “You did aim to miss.”

“But still…”

“It is forgotten,” Izuku said, waving his hand airily. “And besides, Katsuki has done far worse.”

Izuku gestured in Katsuki’s direction only to find he was gone. Excusing himself, it didn’t take Izuku long to find him, although he and Eijirou seemed to be in the throes of some rather fiery argument.

“I will not-”

“The idea was yours,” Eijirou barked, cutting Katsuki off. “It is your job to follow through on it. Or your choice to take it back.”

“That’s idiotic!” Katsuki snapped.

“Then you agree with me?” Eijirou pressed.

Katsuki looked like he very much did not. “Fine,” he spat. “I do.” He hoisted his bag up, slinging it over his shoulder.

Katsuki,” Eijirou groaned, the blond grumbling but relenting. “Do not make us fight about this. You will turn the battle for us Brimstone. I need you to do this.”

Katsuki’s anger crumbled there and he nodded, letting his head rest against Eijirou’s shoulder. “Look for me?”

“I will. Every day,” Eijirou assured, lifting his head and kissing him. “Now go.”

Katsuki let their foreheads rest together for a few moments before pulling away. The next thing Izuku knew, he was swinging himself up into Cinead’s saddle, Elspeth on his heels. They flew up into the sky, circling the campsite once before wheeling away to the east.

“Eijirou?” Izuku asked quizzically.

Eijirou jumped at the sound of his name before slinging an arm around Izuku’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about him,” he said, grin wide. “Now come, let us help set up camp. There is much work to do.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Somewhere along the line Toshinori had lost track of the days. They all sort of blended together when one was constantly fighting for their life, making counter-strategies to plays your enemy had just made, keeping your soldiers alive. Toshinori tried to never lose a life in vain, tried to keep each precious person alive. The less casualties, the bigger the victory. But his men were trained to be sharp and nimble, to rescue and save, to help. They were not, as Enji’s men were, trained to mow down line after line with little thought to the repercussions of their quirks.

“Sire,” Tsukauchi said from side, wheeling his horse around. “Call the retreat. The left ridge is lost.”

Toshinori gritted his teeth. “No,” he growled because they couldn’t. Losing the left ridge would leave them dangerously close to being surrounded and let Enji’s men have more chance of slipping past them and making for the capital.

“Orders sire?” Nemuri asked, also joining his side.

Toshinori eyed her up. “Take your troops down the left. Make the best use of your quirk that you can.”

Nemuri nodded, rallying her faction and heading that way. Toshinori scoured the battlefield, searching for Enji. They had glimpsed each other across the plains several times but never had they been close enough to engage. Enji probably didn’t want to, not until he’d decimated Toshinori’s forces and left Yuuei all but defenceless. But Toshinori would battle him here and now, frail as he was behind his mask, if it meant the war would end.

“Sire, time is running out,” Tsukauchi murmured, placing a hand on his arm.

“I know,” Toshinori hissed, having been swallowing back blood for the past hour. He couldn’t maintain this form much longer but he couldn’t leave his men.

He also couldn’t let Enji see his weakness.

“Incoming!”

The cry came from in front of them and Toshinori’s eyes whipped up just in time to see a literal boulder being thrown his way. There was no time to question whose quirk it belonged to, not when there was no time to dodge.

“All Might!”

The call came from every direction, completely panicked. And then, in amongst it all.

“Smash!”

 

***

 

Shouto didn’t know what had happened.

One second Izuku had been by his side and the next second he was gone. There was only the faint gust of wind from where he’d been standing to indicate he’d moved at all. And then a boulder in the middle of the battlefield abruptly turned to dust. It shattered, was pulverised, fell to the ground as little more than pebbles.

Izuku was there.

Of course he was.

He was there, standing beside All Might, fists clenched. Lightning crackled around his body, giving his skin a greenish glow.

Silence followed, as though no one knew what to do. And it wasn’t Izuku’s presence alone that had done it. No, because people were starting to turn towards where Izuku had come from and one by one, recognising the banners of Ingenium and Riot. There were now two more armies on the field and no one knew which side they would choose. Which was why Shouto wasn’t surprised when the horn for battle’s end rang out. Soldiers slowly stepped away from the middle of the plain, back towards their tents and their commanders. Kaito and Eijirou slowly, clearly, made their way more to All Might’s side of the field, giving out the order for camp to be made. That alone was enough to send murmurs flying. The action spoke louder than words:

They were on Yuuei’s side.

There was the pounding of hooves and Shouto looked over to see All Might approaching, his manservant and Izuku flanking him. His son, Shouto realised almost in shock. All Might was riding with his son.

“Kaito. Eijirou,” All Might said with a short bow. His eyes then flicked to the left with a touch of surprise. “Prince Shouto.”

“All Might,” he greeted, bowing his head incrementally.

“Where is your tent?” Kaito asked, cutting straight to the point. “We may outnumber Endeavour now but our men are unaccustomed to fighting together. I would like a strategy before dawn.”

“As would I,” All Might agreed. “If you’ll follow me, I will show you.” He then gave them all a cursory look. “And of course, the princes. I think this is will be good experience.”

Kaito’s face turned grim. “Yes, indeed so.”

“And keep Shouto hidden,” Izuku said, glancing past his father to Tsukauchi. “King Enji’s men haven’t sighted him yet. That’s an element of surprise we can use.”

Shouto blinked twice, though didn’t get anymore in as Tsukauchi came to his side, gathering some troops and obscuring him from sight. As a party they made their way to Yuuei’s command tent. Their horses were taken care of and they were soon shown inside. Izuku, it seemed, had found the time to change somehow, now dressed in what Shouto could only assume was his royal attire. He looked far more imposing than Shouto had ever thought possible. His hair was pushed back off his face with a hoop band and he was currently surveying the map of the battlefield.

“Thoughts?” All Might asked as he came to Izuku’s side, a hand on his shoulder.

Izuku tapped an area of the map to the south. “There’s a river here. Deep enough to keep people back but it may well be frozen over. From there, it’s a straight run to the capital from the south-east.”

“I’ll put some men onto it,” All Might said with a nod.

“He is clever,” Kaito murmured, in something akin to shock.

“Very,” All Might praised, Izuku dutifully ignoring them even as his ears went pink.

“What can we do?” Eijirou said, sliding himself between All Might and Izuku. He scoured the map, chewing on his bottom lip uncertainly. “My kingdom is known for their strength and strong defense. If you need someone to protect the front line, we can provide it.”

Kaito then put his piece forward, Shouto hanging back awkwardly. He didn’t hold any power here, he didn’t have any sway. He had nothing to his name. No troops, no rank, not even a guarantee that his presence would cause a slight pause. Shouto wondered, faintly, if this was how Izuku had felt his whole life; shunned and ignored when he had just as much right to be there as everyone else.

Their meeting concluded as the sun was setting, the battlefield being bathed in pinks and purples. A strategy had been drawn up and everyone knew their roles.

“I take my leave,” Kaito said, Tenya on his heels. “I have no doubt a messenger of Enji’s will be waiting for me.”

Shouto looked at him sharply, Tenya seeing the look and nodding as if to say no, he would not allow his father to change his allegiance. “Good luck,” he murmured. “And remember, my father is a liar. I can provide a list of everything he has ever said about your kingdom.”

For once, Kaito’s shoulders dropped. “Yes, I suppose you could. One day, perhaps, I might ask you to. It would do well, I think, for me to see where I stand in Enji’s eyes.”

Shouto grimaced but didn’t comment any further. Eijirou was next to stand though All Might pulled him up with a wave of the hand. “If you don’t mind my asking, where is young Katsuki? I imagine it would have been quite the challenge to make him stay away.”

Eijirou hesitated before pasting a smile on his face. “He will come when he can.”

It wasn’t an explanation and EIjirou knew it. He ducked out before anyone could ask him more. All Might looked to Izuku, who simply shrugged. “He’s been as evasive since he left. But I know Kacchan; he’ll be here.”

Izuku was overflowing with confidence and Toshinori smiled. “I’m sure he will, if you say so.”

Toshinori then hacked into his hand, Izuku rushing to support him and Shouto could only watch in morbid fascination as All Might - All Might, the all powerful leader of Yuuei - turned into something that was only comparable to a skeleton. Blood flecked his lips and All Might hastily wiped them away. Shouto suddenly felt as though he was intruding something very personal, awkwardly looking away. The movement caught Toshinori’s attention though, the man going dead stiff.

“Prince Shouto, I-”

“You know of our agreements,” Izuku cut in, meeting Shouto’s gaze levelly. “There are things we’ve said that have been kept secret. Please, add this to one of those things. The other rulers cannot know.”

“Izuku,” Toshinori chided gently, though it did little good.

“P-please Shouto,” Izuku whispered, hand shaking where it rested atop his father’s shoulder.

Shouto didn’t really know what choice he had. Even if he did tell, who would he? Certainly not his father and there was no one else close enough, with the exception of Tenya, Eijirou, and Ochako. All of whom Izuku would undoubtedly not mind knowing.

“I won’t,” he promised because it was true.

“Thank you,” Izuku said sincerely, smiling before turning back to Toshinori and letting himself be drawn into a hug.

Toshinori chuckled wetly. “I’ve been looking for you every hour my boy. To have you in my arms again...I feel blessed.”

Izuku hiccoughed into Toshinori’s shoulder. “I was always coming back Papa. I...I thought that I...that I would be too late. But you’re safe. You’re safe.”

“Now Izuku, that won’t do,” Toshinori scolded, pushing him away and thumbing at his tears. “I can’t have you worrying about me. It’s a father’s job to worry about his son, not the other way around.”

Izuku just pulled a face. “You have met Mama. It’s a trait we share.”

Toshinori’s bellowing laugh filled the tent, Shouto having to bite back a laugh of his own. “Indeed you do.”

Whatever was going to be said next was put on hold as the flap of the tent was opened without warning. Shouto went rigid, stepping between the Midoriyas - was All Might a Midoriya? He didn’t know - and the intruder. The intruder, however, simply raised an eyebrow and smirked at him. He then peered around him and waved at Toshinori; if one could count flicking two fingers a wave.

Shouto then jumped as Izuku flew right past him, nearly knocking into him. “Hitoshi!”

Hitoshi’s smirk shifted into something softer as Izuku collided with him. He drew his friend in close, returning Izuku’s hug lazily. Shouto’s eyes narrowed at the lingering kiss Hitoshi placed to Izuku’s cheek, teeth grinding when he saw Izuku clearly return the gesture.

“You look exhausted,” Hitoshi mused as they broke apart, Izuku’s chin in his hand, turning him this way and that. “Come, lie down with me.”

Izuku made to say yes before quickly back-pedalling, looking at Shouto wide-eyed. “Ah! Forgive me, I-...I did not mean to-”

“Izuku.” Toshinori’s voice came through then, gentle but firm. “You are not Shouto’s servant anymore. You are not bent to his will. Go with Hitoshi, I know you want to. I will entertain Shouto.”

Something like realisation dawned in Izuku’s eyes while something like reality slapped Shouto. Izuku beamed, taking Hitoshi’s hand and letting Hitoshi lead him to a corner of the tent hidden behind some drapes; a sleeping area, if Shouto had to guess. He could hear their murmured voices but not what was being said.

“Come, young Shouto, please join me,” Toshinori invited, pushing out the chair Izuku had vacated.

Shouto took it gingerly. “Thank you.”

Toshinori’s face turned sad. “You need not thank me. If anything, I should be thanking you. I know where Izuku went.” Shouto stiffened. “And I know how easy it would have been for you to turn him in. Izuku’s head is invaluable to your father.”

“I would never!” Shouto snapped, hand slamming onto the table.

Toshinori gave a single nod. “That is good, I suppose. I think it is hard for me to understand the depth of your friendship. As I’m sure you’re well aware, Enji and I have never been on good terms.”

“Neither have I,” Shouto snorted, a little taken aback when that got him a laugh and a slap on the back.

“Ah, to have such a bold personality. It suits you, you know?”

Shouto found himself flushing, unsure of how to react to such praise. Instead he turned his attention elsewhere. “That Hitoshi boy...he knows Izuku’s secret, doesn’t he?”

Toshinori gave a solemn nod. “He does. I believe he was the first. His quirk makes it...easy for him to extract information. He’s good at keeping it too.”

Shouto hummed, a little dissatisfied in some way.

The Yuueian king didn’t seem to notice though, just glancing at where Izuku had gone with a contemplative look on his face. “Why, I heard just the other day from my wife that the servants say they’ve all heard Hitoshi ask Izuku’s hand in marriage.”

Shouto went cold.

“I can never tell when that boy is jesting or not,” Toshinori admitted sheepishly. “But apparently the servants deem them quite the couple.”

Shouto saw the moment Toshinori realised who he was talking to - a sign that Izuku had spoken to his father regarding them - but Shouto was already on his feet, bowing deeply. “Sorry, but I am tired. Is there a place in which I may retire?”

“I’ve upset you,” Toshinori said hurriedly, mouth downturned. “I apologise. I forgot that you and Izuku also-”

“You meant no disrespect,” Shouto cut in. “However, I am tired. So please.”

“Of course,” Toshinori said. He waved a hand and Tsukauchi approached. When he had returned, Shouto didn’t know. “See Shouto to his tent.”

Tsukauchi nodded. “Of course sire.”

Shouto took half a step before turning back around, meeting Toshinori’s gaze levelly. “I know I already said as much to Izuku but for your own piece of mind, no, I will not tell anyone about this form you have.”

It was Toshinori’s turn to stand and bow. “Thank you Prince Shouto. I’m sure you understand how much that means to me.”

With that, Shouto was led into the night and taken to a tent of his own. He changed into clothes laid out on the bedroll, fingers tracing the Yuueian fabric in interest. His clothes for tomorrow were similar to Izuku’s. Tomorrow, he would wear Yuueian colours. Tomorrow, the true battle would start.

 

***

 

When Izuku awoke the next morning, it was to Hitoshi’s back pressed against his own. His friend wasn’t asleep - his breathing was too uneven for that - but he was still determined to be that source of comfort. Izuku smiled, stretching before rolling over and tapping Hitoshi’s shoulder. He was met with a grunt.

“The sun will not rise for some half hour yet. Be quiet until then.”

Izuku huffed out a laugh. “Does it really pain you so much to actually realise you are awake each morning?”

“That I did not pass on during the night?” Hitoshi said, finally rolling over and giving Izuku a painfully blank look. “Yes.”

They stared at each other for a long time before Hitoshi groaned, swatting at him. “Fine, no. So long as you are here.”

“And your father, and your other one,” Izuku chastised, getting up and reaching for his clothes.

“True,” Hitoshi agreed, making no move to join him and simply relicing on the pillows. He may have looked the epitome of lazy but Izuku knew that wasn’t so, knowing that under his calm demeanour Hitoshi was running over every plan they’d made and every possible way to react should they fail. He was also probably keeping a mental tab on what spies he and Aizawa had sent out and when they were scheduled to return, as well as what information they would bring.

Doing the final fastens on his waistcoat, Izuku hesitated before dropping back onto the bedrolls, hands balled into fists on his knees. “Is it...I don’t want to fight.”

Hitoshi didn’t bite, just scoffed. “I’m afraid that’s irrelevant, my prince. You will fight, whether you like it or not.”

Izuku scowled down at his lap. “There must be another way.”

“And yet there isn’t,” Hitoshi replied shortly, getting to his feet and starting to dress. “When we don’t have a choice, Izuku, that is when our true character shines through.”

Izuku paused, blinking. “Huh. That-...Yes, that’s...That’s very true.” He reached out, clasping Hitoshi’s hand. “While Papa and I are on the frontlines, do not put yourself in any unnecessary danger. We all have our parts to play.”

Hitoshi nodded easily enough. “Don’t worry. Your father and mine have had me holed up in the command tent. I don’t mind though. It gives me the best view.”

Izuku felt relief flow through him at that, tugging Hitoshi closer until they were forehead to forehead, nose to nose. “Take care.”

“I should say that to you,” Hitoshi countered. “Now go, my prince. The sun is up and battle is nigh.”

 

***

 

Izuku didn’t know much about war. As bad as relationships were between Yuuei and Endeavour, he’d never seen an actual battle before yesterday. Every “fight” he’d seen had been people spewing venom at each other and goings on behind the scenes. It was never as open as this. It was never this raw. There was something entirely different about hearing the cacophony of yelling, of seeing people fall one after another, to have the smell of blood seemingly ingrained into his head.

The one thing he could handle though was being given orders. Izuku had followed orders his whole life.

Which was why there was no delay when his father ordered him to go right with Snipe. Izuku had already seen the faction of Enji’s men breaking off. Yes, they’d sent troops down to protect the river crossing but the number Enji had sent? Too many; they’d get overwhelmed in minutes.

Izuku abandoned his horse and kept pace with his quirk. He saw on Snipe’s face the look he’d seen on all his father’s commanders today - the look that told him they knew who he was and were still processing that very fact. Snipe nodded towards the river and the army they were about to collide with.

“You strong kid?”

Izuku gave a single nod.

“I’ve got a long range quirk and so do most of men.”

“And the ones who are short range?”

“Can you lead them?”

“I can.”

Snipe’s face was unreadable behind his mask, but still giving the order and splitting his company in two. If there was any surprise on his men’s part about them being led by a stranger, they didn’t show it. Izuku was grateful for that, yelling for them all to get down as Snipe sent the first volley of arrows over their heads. He then assessed the path before them.

“Approach from the north-west!” he ordered. “The river bank’s walls will-”

Izuku’s command was cut off by a fallen tree suddenly being hurled across the river. Izuku perked up. He knew that quirk and while it could also belong to someone else, to come from the south…

“Ochako!”

Izuku shot to his feet and went to run only to hastily pull himself up, spinning to face Snipe. “Uravity is here! Send a messenger to All Might. I will deal with them. Keep pressure on Endeavour.”

Snipe indicated he understood and then Izuku was off, quirk activating and all but shooting him across the river. He came to a stop not one foot away from Ochako, several guards shouting in alarm. Ochako gave the barest of jumps before smiling, reaching a hand down. Izuku took it, clasping it tightly as he bowed.

“You came,” he breathed. “I did...I did not ask.”

“No,” King Seiten said, overhearing him. “And that is why we are here. You have given us choice. If Enji wins this war, there will be no such thing as choice.”

Izuku’s lips pursed. “Yes, I believe you are right.”

Seiten’s eyes lingered on him for a moment. “I can scarce believe you are who you say you are. But fill me in, Izuku. Tell me how my army can assist you.”

A horse was offered to him, Izuku swinging into the saddle and breaking down the battlefield as they crossed the river. There were cheers as Uravity’s flags started to be seen. Izuku described the battle as quickly as possible, leaving out no important details. Seiten’s generals nodded along, making the odd comment or enquiry, until they were all satisfied.

“Have the inexperienced set up camp,” Seiten instructed. “While they do so, bolster Yuuei’s forces. I will meet with Toshinori.”

The Urati soldiers did as asked, heading to their designated areas. Ochako rode by Izuku’s side as they cantered for Yuuei’s command tent. “You did not have to come,” Izuku repeated, voice lower and aimed at Ochako only this time.

She rolled her eyes at him, drawing an arrow from her quiver and shooting it off as an Endeavan came flying towards them. He plummeted down, disappearing into the fray. Izuku looked on, awed. Ochako just leant across to smack him over the head. “That was nothing. And of course we would come Izuku. That is what friends do,” she emphasised.

Izuku swallowed back the lump in his throat. “Then...thank you.”

Ochako squeezed his arm. “Anytime.”

 

***

 

Toshinori could not believe the sight before him. Yes, he had always envisioned the five kingdoms brought together by friendship but to see it happen, in his lifetime, because of his son...Toshinori could scarce believe it. It had been relieving enough to see Riot and Ingenium arrive but then to have Uravity arrive, unannounced and ready to fight...it was more than his old heart could bear.

“Seiten,” he greeted, pulling the man in for a hug. “It is good to see you, though I wish it were under better circumstances.”

“I agree,” Seiten said, expression drawn. “But we are, all of us, here now. Surely Enji must concede defeat?”

“He has not done so yet,” Kaito huffed, sounding rather annoyed. “To continue on from this point is sheer madness.”

“We cannot call for a treaty,” Eijirou said. “That admits weakness on our side. It gives him room to negotiate. I won’t let that happen.”

“It may yet come to that,” Toshinori pointed out delicately.

“Not if we defeat him,” Eijirou pressed. “To make it obvious he cannot fight against us and win.”

“Enji is not one to give in so easily,” Seiten sighed. “He will push until he has nothing left push with.”

Toshinori’s eyes flicked to where Izuku was sitting astride his horse, gaze never still for more than a second, taking in each subtle shift in the battle. He paid particular attention to where Shouto was, always far away from the front lines, and any areas where it looked like Endeavour was about to get the upper hand. He was a true strategist.

“Izuku?” Toshinori called, making his son’s head snap around. “How would you make Enji stand down?”

The other kings looked at him in disbelief while Izuku merely frowned. “Ransom Shouto.” The answer was blunt but his next words were razor sharp. “But I would not recommend that, given the company you have.”

“Prince Shouto is here?” Seiten blustered. “Then why can we no-”

“Papa, no.” Ochako cut her father off with a simple look. “We will not sacrifice Shouto.”

Toshinori held his hands up when Seiten and Kaito looked his way. “I have no sway in the matter. Eijirou will not hand him over, nor will my son allow me to, clearly.”

“His presence may be enough though,” Tenya offered, tapping his chin in thought. “If Shouto’s father were to see him on the battlefield-”

“I doubt anything would change,” Shouto finished, now at their sides and it only took a single glance at Izuku to discover how he’d known to come over. “My father would simply call me weak for being captured. He has other heirs.”

The words were said nonchalantly though Toshinori wasn’t blind to the way Izuku’s jaw clenched. He also wasn’t blind to the way Eijirou suddenly straightened, twisting to the north. He then grinned at something none of them could see or hear.

“As I said,” Eijirou said grandly with a feral grin. “We need to make it obvious he can’t win.”

It was then that Toshinori saw what he meant and oh, so that was where Katsuki had gone. An ear splitting roar filled the battlefield, everyone freezing in terror as a weyr of dragons swept over the plains. It was easy to spot Katsuki, his dragon glistening red and leading the pack. The dragons on his tail were greys and browns and earthy maroons, clearly gathered from all over Riot.

“You changed the rule…”

Everyone looked to Izuku but he was looking at Eijirou. Eijirou who stared back just as blankly until, “So it was you who put the idea in Katsuki’s head!”

“I-...Th-that is-!” Izuku flushed. “I simply thought that in a situation like this - which was inevitable, by the way - or one in which Riot was attacked, the dragons were your best line of defence.”

Eijirou waggled a finger at him playfully. “I fear you, servant’s son.”

Izuku poked a tongue out in return, earning a gasp from Kaito and Seiten while Eijirou and Ochako merely laughed. Tenya started scolding and Shouto looked frightfully bored but Toshinori could only smile. So this was what Izuku’s reach looked like.

The ground next to them then shook as Katsuki landed, marching his way to Eijirou’s side. “You haven’t lost yet?”

Eijirou chuckled, slinging an arm around his shoulder and kissing his cheek swiftly. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” He then took in the dragons, muttering the regions from whence they came under his breath. “Brimstone, you...That is more than I imagined.”

Katsuki simply shrugged. “Their king asked for their help.”

He said it like that was all there was to it. And really, it was.

And then Toshinori saw it.

He didn’t know when he’d left, didn’t know how long he’d gone, only saw because of the distinctive green lightning but there was Izuku, right in the middle of the battlefield. Aizawa was a crumpled mess behind him, Toshinori not even sure he was still alive, and there, facing Izuku down with a sense of dawning realisation, was Todoroki Enji. A flame engulfed fist came down and Toshinori couldn’t move fast enough, wouldn’t reach him-

“Izuku!”

 

***

 

Ice.

The entire plateau was covered in ice.

Izuku didn’t know what to do, hastily scrambling back should King Enji decide to attack him again. He’d been foolish, yes, but he’d pulled Aizawa out of harm’s way. That was all that mattered; that he was alive.

You.” Enji’s voice was little more than a hiss. “So it was you. I always knew you were up to something, you quirkless vagabond.”

Izuku narrowed his eyes. “I am not quirkless, and my mother is a queen. But in my role as a servant, I have seen what you are. You…” Izuku took another step back. “You are a monster.”

He may have spat the word but Enji merely rolled his eyes, like he was an irritating insect. “You don’t stand a chance against me, boy. You’re far too inexperienced.”

Izuku knew that, by the gods did he know that, but his luck suddenly changed. Suddenly changed in the form of one Todoroki Shouto arriving at his side. He was breathless from running, his hair a mess, but he was there, at Izuku’s side. Enji did, for once, look surprised. It then turned to triumph.

“Well done Shouto,” he praised. “Handing me Yuuei’s prince so conveniently. All Might will back down with such a piece in my possession.”

Enji reached out and Shouto stepped between them calmly. His eyes burnt as he stared his father down. “No.”

“No? Shouto, stop being ridiculous! You will-”

“I will not.” Izuku gazed up at Shouto in wonder, power radiating from him. “For too long you have driven a wedge between our kingdoms. Your warmongering has brought us nothing but death.”

Our kingdoms?” Enji mocked. “You dare imply an allegiance with Yuuei?”

“You have signed said alliance for years,” Shouto shot back. “And as for me…” He reached back, finding Izuku’s hand and gripping it firmly. “I stand with Deku, and consequently his father and his kingdom. I stand with my friend.”

Enji turned on Izuku, Izuku having to use every inch of his self-control not to flinch. “What have you done to my son, bewitcher?”

“I have shown him kindness,” Izuku answered, voice softer than he would have liked. “The real question is, what did you do?”

He expected an angry yell, a temper tantrum. He didn’t expect King Enji to laugh. “Shouto,” he chuckled. “How weak willed you are. Kindness? Is that what they call it in Yuuei? To think my son has had you on your knees for him.”

Izuku frowned in confusion before his face burnt. “I...Do not imply…!”

Father.” Shouto’s voice was like ice. “Take your words back.”

Enji and Shouto stared each other down for an eternity before Enji finally shrugged. “Very well Shouto. If you feel so strongly…”

It was a trap, it had to be, but it still happened before Izuku could react. The hand suddenly lunging for him, the flames wrapping around it. Izuku threw his hands up to protect himself, crying out when Enji’s hand managed to grasp his elbow, pain white hot until he couldn’t think.

Deku!” Shouto’s voice rang through his ears before the pain was abruptly gone. “Take him!”

Izuku didn’t even get a chance to blink before he was being yanked away. He recognised the sensation though: Aizawa. The spy was conscious, releasing his capture weapon when Toshinori was close enough and giving him his son. Toshinori curled around Izuku protectively even as Tsukauchi was hastily bandaging his arm. A ring of flames surrounded them, keeping all Endeavan soldiers out, Izuku wondering what Shouto was doing when he realised the flames didn’t belong to him, but rather Riot’s dragons. Eijirou and Katsuki were keeping the final battle fair, it seemed.

“Izuku?” Toshinori asked, shaking him none too gently.

“Papa, I’m fine,” Izuku croaked, struggling to free himself but only being dragged back. “Shouto?”

“He can handle this,” Eijirou said sharply, eyes never leaving his dragons.

Izuku tugged on his father’s vest pleadingly but he was ignored, drawn in closer if anything. “Hush Izuku.” Toshinori’s voice was a hiss, Izuku shrinking down. “This is not our place.”

He could only watch then as Enji and Shouto battled across their private arena. Their swords had since been drawn while their quirks whirled around them. Shouto could parry with ice as well as with his sword and while Enji may have had more raw power, it was Shouto’s quirk that had him slowly gaining the upper hand. Izuku gasped at a slash to Shouto’s knees. Shouto evaded it easily enough, throwing out another pillar of ice. It appeared in just the right place to knock Enji off balance and Izuku saw what was going to happen before Shouto did, before Shouto could stop himself, before he could think.

The sword came down and with it, King Enji’s head.

Shouto’s quirk dropped, as did his sword. Endeavour’s men halted in their tracks. Toshinori’s grip on Izuku loosened completely. And Izuku couldn’t move.

“Shouto…”

“Shouto!” It was Ochako who moved first, breaking free of her ranks and flinging her arms around the kneeling prince. Tenya was next, Eijirou on his heels. Izuku was then pushed to his feet.

“Go,” Toshinori said. “Go, he needs you.”

Izuku didn’t hesitate a second later, jumping debris and broken spears and burrowing himself into Shouto’s chest. “You are fine Shouto, you are fine,” he whispered, over and over again until they fooled themselves into believing it.

 

***

 

“What do we do now?” Kaito asked, looking over the battlefield as people worked together to bury the dead and care for the injured. Those who had been enemies mere hours before were comrades in grief now.

Toshinori glanced at Shouto. “I imagine King Shouto will return to Endeavour, make his position official.”

Shouto flicked him an unconcerned glance. “There are enough people here to witness my ascension. I will send word to the capital but, as the official date has passed, I imagine Deku’s coming of age ceremony will be held soon. I would like to attend.”

Toshinori blinked. “Ah, of course. In amongst everything, I forgot all about it.”

“His coronation is what started this whole war,” Eijirou snorted, finishing his beer and calling for another.

“Hardly,” Seiten said. “But it is what finally drove Enji mad.”

Toshinori slapped his hands on his thighs. “Then, let me announce to you, now, the crowning of Prince Izuku one week hence. Consider this my extended invitation.”

“My wife will be sad to miss it but I agree, the sooner the better,” Kaito said, reaching over the table to shake Toshinori’s hand. “Tenya and I will be there.”

“And Katsuki and I,” Eijirou said, placing his hand atop Toshinori’s and Kaito’s.

“I will bring Himawari and I’m sure I will not convince Ochako to stay behind,” Seiten said, joining their handshake.

“You know where I stand,” Shouto finished, laying his hand for but a second before bowing. “Now please, excuse me. I have an army to lead and a...king to bury.”

“Young Shouto, he was still your father despite the wrongs he did,” Toshinori interjected gently. “You are allowed to mourn.”

Shouto hesitated before nodding stiffly, seeing himself out. Making for his horse, Shouto had just grasped the reins when he saw a figure sitting atop a rocky outcrop. Two figures actually, though the second one left even as he watched, Shouto recognising them as Katsuki. He thought that made it rather obvious who the first figure was.

“Deku!”

Izuku turned, waving Shouto over with a smile, although he was pouting when Shouto reached him. “Must you hold onto that dreadful name?”

“I…” Shouto flushed. “I admit, I often forget.”

“Eijirou does not forget.” There was something odd in Izuku’s voice but he waved it away. “You are to return to Endeavour?”

Shouto shook his head. “Not until you are crowned.”

Izuku blushed, sheepishly scratching at his neck. “Shouto, that is...It is not where you’re needed.”

“No,” he admitted. “But it’s where I should like to be.” Izuku’s eyes widened, Shouto hesitating before placing a hand on his knee. “I know I have done nothing to deserve it and I admit I am still mostly in the dark but, should I make an adequate apology...would you allow me to court your properly?”

Izuku’s demeanour turned frightfully serious. “Why are you asking me this now?”

“Because, I nearly lost you today. And in that moment, I realised. I cannot imagine living this life without you.”

Izuku chewed on his bottom lip before meeting his gaze. “You will be at my coming of age ceremony?” A nod. “Then...will you allow me until then to decide?”

Shouto nodded, taking his hand and kissing the back of it chastely, Izuku squeaking. “Thank you, Izuku.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Come dawn the next day, the camps began to pack themselves away. Endeavour would be moving out that day, Shouto having hand-picked generals and having them lead the army back. His father’s body had been sent off the night before, flames flickering around the pyre as speeches were made. No one from beyond Endeavour’s walls was allowed to be present and Izuku could admit he didn’t really want to go. He would have gone for Shouto, if he’d asked, as his father would have gone to bolster their relationship. A proper ceremony would be held in Endeavour’s capital some twenty days hence, when the traditional mourning period was over.

Uravity were staying on a little longer as they’d only just arrived and the paths back could be treacherous given the weather. Toshinori had agreed to shelter them until winter’s end and offered joint training exercises with Yuuei’s knights, something Seiten had seemed delighted with. Ingenium were preparing to go back and Riot splitting their party; some would stay, some wouldn’t. The dragons would be returning but with Izuku, Katsuki, and Eijirou have such strong bonds of friendship, it also made sense many of them would stay.

“You seem happy,” Toshinori remarked as they rode back to the capital.

Izuku ducked into his collar ever so slightly. “I...This is my first time being truly honest with my friends. That, I think, is cause for joy.”

Toshinori’s hand settled on his shoulder, squeezing slightly. “I apologise for having make you lie all these years.”

Izuku quickly shook his head, gesturing behind them with a nod of his head. “If you had not, do...do you really think we would be here today?”

Toshinori also looked out behind them, taking in the mixture of people following them. “Perhaps not.”

Surely not,” Izuku corrected. “Our friendship is...invaluable.”

“Yes, I think it is,” Toshinori agreed, pulling up when there were some raised voices a way back. Izuku just rolled his eyes, already recognising the voice. And yes, there was Katsuki, bickering rather loudly with Eijirou before kissing him roughly and pulling off to head down a smaller, almost hidden trail. Izuku felt his lips quirk up, swapping to a smile when his father glanced at him questioningly.

“That path, it leads to Shizuoka,” he explained. “I’m sure Kacchan wants to check on his family.”

“Ah,” Toshinori said before looking to Eijirou. “His husband seems...rather unthrilled.”

Izuku looked and had to bite back a laugh at Eijirou’s near pout. “Eijirou is hopelessly in love with Kacchan. Gods knows why though,” he added in a mumble. Toshinori gave him a disapproving frown there and Izuku flushed, hunkering down and excusing himself. He rode to Eijirou’s side, bowing his head before falling in line. “Kacchan being a handful?”

Eijirou sighed, nudging his horse forward when the convoy started moving again. “He isn’t. It’s more...I understand his desire to see his family, to check on them, but...well, I should like to join him.”

Izuku made a noise of understanding. “And yet your duty keeps you here.”

“I do not resent it,” Eijirou clarified quickly. “It’s more…”

“You need the ability to be in two places at once,” Izuku finished for him.

Eijirou nodded, lapsing into silence for awhile as they simply made their way back to Yuuei’s capital. “One day,” he said eventually, “I’d like to see it.”

“See what?”

“Shizuoka.” Eijirou’s smile was blinding. “After all, two of the people I care about most come from there. It must be a wonderful place.”

It really...wasn’t but Izuku held out his hand nonetheless, Eijirou shaking it firmly. “Then one day, you shall.”

 

***

 

Arriving back at the capital some two days later, Izuku waited as long as it took for the servants to arrive and show the visiting parties to their rooms before he was sprinting up the palace steps and throwing his arms around his mother. She stepped into them without delay, one hand resting on his back and the other brushing back his hair. Izuku curled in closer, letting his forehead rest against her shoulder. There was then a pair of arms around both of them and Izuku didn’t have to look up to know who it was.

“You came back,” Inko said as she pulled away, thumbing the tears off her face. “Both of you.”

Izuku and Toshinori looked at each other before exchanging identical, sheepish grins. “Well, we won?” Izuku offered.

Inko’s expression turned painfully severe. “You know better than to celebrate death Izuku, even the necessary ones.” When Izuku looked properly cowed, she reached out and cupped his face. “But I understand it is sometimes a necessity. Not because of you but because of people like Enji.”

“There is no one like Enji,” Toshinori said tightly, steering them inside and making for the council chambers. “And there...there is no Enji anymore.”

Inko stumbled on her next step, eyes widening. “Then he-...Did you…?”

Toshinori shook his head, Izuku speaking up quietly. “Shouto.”

“Sh-Shouto?” Inko stammered, hands clasping together. “Oh that...that isn’t...Toshinori, invite him to dine with us tonight but make it clear it is as friends, not as royals.” Inko frowned deeply. “I think it’s time that boy had a mother; gods knows he needs one now more than ever.”

Toshinori nodded, taking his leave. Izuku found himself tempted to follow but didn’t, still unsure as of where he stood. Inko’s hand then slipped into his. “Izuku? How are you, truly?”

“I...I don’t know,” Izuku admitted. “But I...Mama, I feel as though I am meant to be here. I have felt torn for so long but now it’s...it’s as though all the pieces fit together.”

Inko smiled, tugging him down to connect their foreheads. “Now, I’m sure there is much to do but after the evening meal, I think there is something you should do. Something you have never done.”

Izuku’s head cocked to the side. “What, Mama?”

She pinched his cheek. “Why, invite your friends to your chambers of course.”

Izuku squeaked. Oh, he-...He could do that now. Izuku bit his lip to stop from grinning too widely. “I...Mama, I can return their favours.”

Inko matched his grin with a gentle smile. “Yes, you can. Now go make your chambers presentable.”

Perhaps he didn’t need to activate his quirk, perhaps he didn’t need to run, but after weeks of turmoil, to simply feel excited? To have fun? Well, no one could blame him.

 

***

 

Dinner was uneventful. Izuku hadn’t really expected it to be anything otherwise but with Shouto, one could never tell. The one thing Izuku did notice though was that he never so much as went near the topic of his father. If he hadn’t been there, Izuku would have been under the impression that Shouto had left the battle once Uravity had arrived. His mother had given him a look; not that she needed to, Izuku was already planning on pulling Shouto aside later to talk about it.

Which was not why - but was certainly one of the reasons - as to why Izuku has since collected all his friends and gathered them in his room. Shouto was the last on his list and Izuku slipped their hands together with practised ease, pushing open the door. “These are...well, these were once Mama and I’s chambers but now they’re mine!”

“Ah, we’ve never seen your room!” Ochako exclaimed, clapping her hands together excitedly and beginning to, for want of a better word, snoop.

“It isn’t much,” Izuku grumbled, a little embarrassed but not as embarrassed as he would have been had he been showing them around his childhood home.

“It doesn’t need to be,” Shouto murmured, hand still in his. “It’s yours, and that’s enough.”

Ochako made a noise of delight and held up a small trinket. “I bought this for you! At the first Kings’ Summit in Riot.”

Izuku nodded. “I kept everything you all ever gave me.”

The drew some attention and even Shouto dropped his hand as his friend began to peruse what was on the ledge. Izuku let them, flopping onto his bed. He toed his shoes off before getting comfortable against the headboard, content to watch them mutter amongst themselves.

Shouto was the first to peel himself away, hesitating before lying next to Izuku. There was a very obvious gap between them but Izuku still flopped his head onto Shouto’s shoulder. They were friends first and always would be. “Do you like it?” he asked, as though it actually mattered.

“I like it because it is yours,” Shouto replied, matter-of-factly. He then pointed to the map opposite the bed. “You can see my kingdom from yours, it seems.”

Izuku stared at him incredulously while Ochako hooted with laughter, dropping onto the end of the bed. “Shouto, please do not joke. It doesn’t suit you at all.”

“I didn’t know he could,” Eijirou teased, taking Izuku’s other side and fingering the blanket draped across it. “Mitsuki make this?”

Izuku nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, she did! Did she...Do you have one too?”

“I do! Although mine is more red than yours.”

“I am partial to green,” Izuku said, hand running over the wool tenderly. “It’s a beautiful gift. I know she spent many hours on it.”

“I notice,” Tenya boomed, drawing all their attention. “That there is nothing from Ingenium here!”

“Maybe because you kept him locked up?” Eijirou drawled. “I can’t imagine there was much to buy in the dungeons.”

E-Eijirou!” Izuku cried, though Tenya held up a hand.

“No, he is right. I may not like it but I cannot deny that Eijirou speaks the truth.”

“I do have something from Ingenium!” Izuku continued to protest. “It is just...with Kacchan. I gave it to him to remember me by when we were parted some three years, and then more from there.” He smiled down at his lap as his fingers wound together. “Hitoshi and I...we made shell necklaces together. The shells of Ingenium are just…”

“They are,” Tenya agreed, Shouto frowning.

“Hitoshi was in Ingenium?”

Izuku sent him a flat look. “The prince of Yuuei had been taken. Do you think All Might would not have people monitoring me? Ensuring my safe return?”

Shouto blinked in surprise while Tenya blinked twice. “That is...Yes, that is true. I never thought of it in such a way. Of course you were not without help.”

Izuku forced his body not to lock up there because yes, Aizawa and Hitoshi had been there, but they hadn’t been able to locate him for near a month. And even then, they hadn’t been there to help him. Not when he’d been foolish enough to go after Stain.

Of course, thinking about Stain brought back thoughts about King Enji and Izuku shifted so he was more nuzzling into Shouto’s neck than anything. He wouldn’t normally have done this except, “...Shouto, please. Tell us...how you are?”

Izuku felt Shouto stiffen under him and Izuku was sure he would run but the next second there was a choked sob. It was accompanied by a pained whine and all Izuku could do was hold him closer. Eijirou joined their pile, reaching across Izuku to grasp Shouto’s hand firmly while Tenya took the other. Ochako rested a hand on Shouto’s leg, squeezing comfortingly. “You’re allowed to cry Shouto.”

Izuku wondered if Shouto had ever been told that as every dam suddenly broke loose. Shouto was no longer holding back, openly crying into Izuku’s hair and all Izuku could do was hold him. He shushed him gently, repeating ministrations his mother had done for years. He played with Shouto’s hair softly, rubbed a hand up his back, whispered lullabies into his ear.

“Why do you let me?” Shouto eventually managed, words more of a croak than anything else.

“Why do we let you what?” Eijirou asked in confusion.

Shouto gestured between them all. “You hated him.”

“Shouto, no,” Ochako gasped, leaning closer to hug him. “Whether we liked your father or not, he is still your father.”

“You hated him too,” Izuku reminded, startling Shouto somewhat. “And yet you shed tears for him. We have no right to scold you. You feel what you feel. Whether it is justified or not, that is not for us to decide.”

Shouto’s expression wavered there. He looked up in support to Eijirou when he approached but Eijirou was blunt as always. “Shouto, you saw me mourn my parents; first one, then the other. But you killed your father. I imagine that hurts a great deal more, perhaps even more that it was an accident.”

If Izuku had thought Shouto was crying before, he was dead wrong. It was nothing compared to what Shouto was doing right now. His breath came in nothing but painful sounding hiccups and his hands, fisted into Izuku’s shirt, were leaving trails of ice and fire respectively. “I didn’t...I didn’t mean...it was…”

“We know,” Izuku promised, lips finding Shouto’s hair. “We know Shouto, we know.”

 

***

 

Five days passed before Izuku knew it and it was soon the day of his announcement. Too soon, in Izuku’s opinion. Did they really need to invite so many people? Did it have to be so public?

“The answers are yes and yes, my prince,” Hitoshi droned from the bed, Izuku unaware he’d even been speaking out loud.

Izuku pouted. “Humour me at least Hitoshi. And why are you here?”

Hitoshi shrugged. “As you can see, I’m already prepared. I came to watch you undoubtedly panic.”

That was met with a roll of the eyes. “I’d call you a menace but you’d probably enjoy that.”

“Indeed I would,” Hitoshi said with a smirk before getting to his feet. He batted Izuku’s hands away from where they were trembling on the clasp of his cape. “Here,” he murmured, doing the fastening with ease. “Relax. There is nothing to fear. You have proven yourself enough. Your people will not reject you.”

Izuku manoeuvred himself into Hitoshi’s arms, smiling slightly at the grumble that got him. “Thank you. You have been at my side from the start. You, I think, make this more bearable.”

Hitoshi scoffed but didn’t comment. Nor did he move away when the door to Izuku’s chambers were pushed open, just raising an eyebrow lazily. Izuku swivelled around, though he yelped when he saw who it was, scampering away from Hitoshi but not fast enough to avoid being caught.

“What’s this now Izuku?” Mitsuki crowed, taking in Hitoshi in a single, long look. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

Izuku flushed but pasted a smile on his face. “Hitoshi, my Aunt Mitsuki and Uncle Masaru. You might know them as Prince Katsuki’s parents.”

“Hitoshi,” said man repeated, shaking their hands. “Izuku has mentioned you more than once since we met as children.”

“You a palace brat?” Mitsuki asked, waving Inko off when she made to interject.

“Naturally,” Hitoshi said smugly. “Though I can’t tell you in what way.”

“Hitoshi,” Izuku cut in gently, knowing from Mitsuki’s face that this could go on for hours. “May I have some time with my family?”

Hitoshi nodded easily enough, giving a lazy salute as he left. Izuku wished he could go with him but one look at Inko’s face told him he couldn’t. Luckily, Mitsuki was cut off before she could even start, Masaru bustling passed her and taking Izuku’s shoulders in his hands.

“I heard, from Katsuki,” he said, head bowed in shame. “And I realise I did you some wrongs because of it. You’re hardly the selfish child I once labelled you as.”

“I-it’s okay!” Izuku stammered, hands flailing. “That was the role I...I had to play. I’m only relieved I managed to fool you for so long. I tend to be rather see-through.”

“That you do,” Mitsuki agreed. “I can’t believe your mother gave you away before you did!”

“I thought you’d be more upset that I told Kacchan first,” Izuku quipped, giggling and ducking behind Masaru when Mitsuki lunged for him.

“Mitsuki, please,” Masaru implored. “You can’t treat a prince like that!”

“I treat Katsuki like that; I’ll treat Izuku like that!” Mitsuki shot back.

Izuku did his best not to laugh, instead turning his attention to his mother and taking in her garments for the first time since she’d arrived. “You look beautiful Mama,” he said honestly, kissing her cheek. “Papa is lucky to have you.”

“I-Izuku!” Inko’s hands flew to her cheeks. “S-stop it, young man! I’m far too old for sure fine clothes.”

“You would not say the same of Ochako’s mother, nor Tenya’s, so do not say so about yourself!” Izuku chastised.

That only caused Inko to blush further while Mitsuki looked on in approval. She then announced that they were going to find Katsuki but not before pointing a finger in Izuku’s face and telling him she would find out who Hitoshi was and what, exactly, their relationship was. Izuku’s cry that they were merely friends did him no good and he dreaded to think what Hitoshi would say; he was always one to push the boundaries and cause mischief. He didn’t get long to think on it anyway, not when Tsukauchi was at his doorway, telling him it was time.

The walk to the Great Hall felt unbearably long, Izuku standing outside the doors with his arm looped through Inko’s as Yamada made the announcement from within.

“-in light of the Boundary War and subsequent raids by Endeavour, it was decided by All Might and his closest advisors that Yuuei’s heir be safer kept secret and outside the palace walls. However, with the death of King Enji and the coming of age of King Toshinori’s son, it is only right that said heir be made known!”

Mutterings came from within and Izuku didn’t blame them. He just tightened his grip when his mother began to shake.

“And as such, it is my delight to announce both Queen Inko and Prince Izuku of Yuuei, to stand where they always should have.”

The doors to the Great Hall swung open and Izuku took a deep breath before holding his head high. The weight of everyone’s stares felt like an anvil on his shoulders but if he just looked at his father, everything went away. Toshinori seemed to realise it too, smiling warmly, as if to beckon him forward. Reaching the steps to the throne, Izuku ushered his mother to go first, balking when Toshinori stopped him when he went to join them.

“This is my son, Izuku,” Toshinori declared, voice ringing off the walls. “Although you may not have known it, he has attended every Kings’ Summit since the age of seven. He has run this kingdom from behind the scenes in our last war against Endeavour and even as recent as one week ago, he commanded troops at the border. It was Izuku that brought Riot and Ingenium to our land. He also had a hand in bringing Uravity. He was, truly, what swung the war for us.”

Izuku wanted to say that that was purely his duty, that he was supposed to do that, when he suddenly realised the implications of that. That he had been a prince without even realising it, without actively acknowledging it. He had not been “playing” his role for some time; he had simply been it.

“Izuku.” His father’s hand tilted his chin up tenderly. “Will you protect Yuuei and put it above yourself from now until your death? Will you become the next All Might when I fall? Will you lead your people with all the strength, wisdom, and kindness you possess?”

“I will.”

Izuku didn’t even need to think there. Toshinori seemed to be fighting back tears at his conviction, turning to Sorahiko and taking the circlet from its resting place. He then carefully lowered onto Izuku’s head, stepping back and presenting him to the hall.

“Prince Izuku of Yuuei!”

The hall erupted into applause as Izuku bowed once before making his way to the throne that was now rightfully is. It felt so odd to be on a seat he’d often seen his friends on but never himself, not even once as a joke or for fun.

The other rulers then had their chance to present gifts. Izuku had not known this was a thing and wished he could hide under his hair. He didn’t need gifts, nor did he want them. But traditions were traditions, he supposed, and so he had to endure it. From Uravity Yuuei was gifted their five best stallions. Ingenium provided bountiful amounts of gold while Eijirou took matters personally, providing Izuku with a personal retainer seal, giving him straight across to Riot’s king whenever he wanted. Izuku immediately hung the seal around his neck, bumping fists with Eijirou joyfully. It was then Shouto’s turn and Izuku was blind to how everyone in the room suddenly sat straighter or narrowed their eyes. Shouto seemed immune though, simply approaching Izuku and bowing shortly.

“I know my kingdom has done yours and yourself a great many wrongs. You are also aware that I am not my father, nor do I intend to rule as he ruled.” That made some of the chatter cease. “However,” Shouto pulled to scrolls from inside his vest. “What I have to give to you is a new, lock tight peace agreement between our lands. And also,” he held out the second scroll. “We, Endeavour, return to you the land taken in the Boundary War twenty-one years ago. This war was wrongfully started by my father and was what made your deception necessary.”

“I…” Izuku’s fingertips brushed against the parchment. “Sho-...K-King Shouto, this is too much.”

Shouto shook his head. “It is simply me returning what my father took. And now, it is yours.”

In the face of that, all Izuku could do was accept it, clutching the scroll to his chest tightly. “Thank you.”

Shouto nodded, spinning on his heel and returning to his seat. All that was left was for Yamada to close the ceremony.

Well, that was all that was left officially. Because once that was done, Izuku was surrounded by noble after noble, all introducing themselves. Some were kind, some were curious, and some saw his age and thought they could play that to their advantage. It made Izuku ill. At least, if nothing else, he had been spared this until now - now, when he was old enough to know better and strong enough to hold his ground.

Plus, he had good friends and if he found himself constantly being cornered by other royalty...the nobles couldn’t butt in, could they?

 

***

 

“You still come up here?”

Izuku jumped slightly, faking a scowl. “Don’t surprise me like that Shouto!”

Shouto smiled ever so slightly, coming to his side and joining him in looking over the capital. “I understand why you do though. The view is spectacular.”

“Your castle is taller,” Izuku pointed out. “Surely your view is better?”

“It is forbidden,” Shouto recited. “For all the strength of my quirk, Father would never allow me upon the parapets and rooftops. Too easy for assassins to do away with me. The tower doors were always locked.”

Izuku frowned. “If I may, Shouto?” A nod. “Your father was a fool.”

Shouto choked on his breath, smacking Izuku’s arm none-too-gently. “You cannot say that!”

“You are not Riotian,” Izuku countered. “Endeavour has no superstitions regarding speaking ill of the dead.”

Shouto shrugged. “Perhaps not. But still, be careful with your words, now more than ever. Once you were nothing more than a gossiping servant. Now your actions portray a higher meaning.”

Izuku winced, realising he was right. He then paled.

“Izuku?” Shouto called, shaking him worriedly.

“Hitoshi and I…” he breathed, mistaking Shouto’s anger for horror. “We...we have no intention of being serious, nor have we ever, but some of our actions…” Izuku groaned, burying his head in his hands. “I can only pray we are passed off as immature youths who dally too much.”

“You have...dallied with him?”

No!” Izuku shrieked. “Gods, I-...No, that is not what I...Oh Shouto, there will be some who think so though.”

“You should have thought of that earlier,” Shouto replied stonily. He then seemed to check himself, resting a hand on Izuku’s arm. “Do not draw a big deal to it. The more you try to make it seem like nothing, the more people will talk. Simply let it be and people will believe what they see.”

“And what will they see?” Izuku asked.

“Two boys acting as boys. They will not see the actions of men. Youth is on your side.”

Izuku breathed a sigh of relief. “I feel I have lost ten years of my life. Perhaps it was I who was naive on how you live, what pressures you are under.”

Shouto shook away with the notion with a hand. “Hardly. I believe it was we, Tenya and I in particular, who misunderstood you. Eijirou mentioned to me that he is planning a trip to your village. If there is an offer, I should like to join.”

Izuku paused, taken aback. “You would...like to see a poor, farmer’s village?”

“You have seen my home,” Shouto corrected. “Is it so bad that I should like to see yours?”

Izuku swept an arm out. “This is my home.”

“It is, now. But do you see it as your home?”

Izuku opened his mouth and then quickly shut it. “Well, no. That is...It is...becoming my home. You remember, I was fifteen when I moved here. A great deal of my life was spent elsewhere.”

“And I should like to see it, if you are willing to allow it,” Shouto pressed.

“One day,” he bargained. “One day, when...when our kingdoms have settled, when peace is absolute. When we have not so much to worry about.”

Shouto held out a hand, Izuku ignoring it and hugging him. Shouto huffed. “Very well. One day. But make no mistake, I will be cross if you take Eijirou without me.”

Izuku rolled his eyes. “And if Kacchan takes Eijirou without me?”

Shouto just tweaked his nose. “Now you are being purposefully obnoxious.” There was a beat and then Shouto pulled his hand away, folding his arms stiffly. “I...Can I admit I have missed this?”

“Yes,” Izuku whispered immediately. “Because I...I have too.” It was true; he had missed joking with Shouto, playfully bantering back and forth.

“Then perhaps I may fix it,” Shouto said slowly, carefully. “I…” His hand reached out and curled around Izuku’s. “When last we were here, I said some terrible things to you. At the time, I thought them logical and they were. But...I think what I am beginning to discover is that love is not logical. Eijirou needed no reasons to court Katsuki aside from that he enjoyed his company. That then grew into love and again, Eijirou showed no hesitance despite Katsuki’s status.” Shouto let his eyes wander over Izuku’s face, taking in features Izuku knew he’d long since memorised. “Even your own parents...King Toshinori chose your mother out of love; not for advantage, and not for her quirk, as my father did. It was a mistake I made.”

“Shouto…”

The new king shook his head. “But it is also a mistake I am not willing to make again. I know I have said things that have hurt you, done things that cannot be undone, and yet...I have to ask that you believe me when I say I chose you long before that day in the armoury. Even when you were Deku, I had feelings for you. That I acted poorly because of it is my fault, not yours.” Shouto drew Izuku closer. “So I am here, now, to say I am sorry. I am sorry for the way I treated you, the callous way I dismissed you, the barbs I made about your quirklessness when it plays no part in who you are. If you would allow it, will you let me try again...Izuku?”

Izuku gave a watery smile, blinking back tears. “Of course, Shouto.”

He leant forward but Shouto pressed a finger to his lips. “No Izuku, we are to do this slowly. Which means you must allow me to court you first.”

With that, Shouto kissed the back of Izuku’s hand before taking his leave. Izuku stood there the longest time before biting his fist to stop a scream escaping. His heart drummed against his ribs and Izuku sunk down, hugging his knees to hide the stupid smile on his face.

 

***

 

The next morning Izuku arose to two roses on his bedside table; one white, one red. He promptly threw himself back into bed, screaming into his pillow.

 

***

 

“I leave for Endeavour in the morning,” Shouto announced over breakfast. No one was surprised, Toshinori simply nodding.

“I think that is a good decision, young Shouto. I’m sure your people will want to welcome their new king.”

“We will leave also,” Kaito announced.

“And you?” Izuku asked, looking to Eijirou.

Eijirou shook his head. “Katsuki would like a little longer in Yuuei. He has two weeks. Should he want to stay longer than that, I will leave without him.”

“It’s not as though I’ll get lost,” Katsuki snorted, pouring them both wine before buttering Eijirou’s roll for him.

“I should like to go with King Shouto,” Izuku announced, all conversation halting.

“Izuku?” his father asked.

“His people have just lost a war. Surely it would do them some good to see that they have not been ostracised because of it,” he explained simply.

Shouto hummed thoughtfully. “Izuku has a point. It would look good to the council.”

Izuku looked to Toshinori and he nodded, though the expression he wore told Izuku they’d be discussing this in great detail very soon. “Very well. Take Hitoshi with you though. It is unwise to travel alone. Hitoshi’s quirk can protect you and he has long since earnt my trust.”

“Thank you,” Izuku said sincerely, returning to his meal. He saw Ochako’s sour expression and did his best to match it. “Hush; I will return soon enough!”

“You’d better,” she threatened lightly. “I’ve seen your footwork. I want lessons.”

“Ah, me too!” Eijirou exclaimed, smacking his forehead. “I forgot to ask!” He craned his neck around Izuku to look at Toshinori. “Is it possible that I be introduced to Izuku’s instructor?”

“Of course!” Toshinori replied jovially and just like that, the good mood returned to the table.

 

***

 

The journey to Endeavour’s capital was easy enough. With their small, three man party, it was easy to find inns that had room to put them up, to find food enough for all of them. Shouto was more than familiar with the route. Hitoshi was content to be the rear guard, letting Izuku and Shouto ride ahead and talk at leisure. Izuku had to admit, it was almost relaxing.

Reaching the capital took nearly a week, their journey ending just as the sun was beginning to dip over the horizon. The shadows were long as they approached the palace gates. Shouto was just hailing for the guards when Izuku suddenly felt his horse being rammed into. His cry was smothered by a hand as he was dragged to the ground. He struggled until he caught a glimpse of purple hair, only becoming more and more confused as Hitoshi all but shoved him off the road and into a muddy water drain. Hitoshi pressed a finger to his lips before crouching down beside Izuku’s mare, fussing over her foreleg. Izuku’s mouth opened even as Shouto was wheeling around, only for it to snap shut when Shouto was roughly pulled from his horse.

Izuku made to run but Hitoshi glared at him. “Be quiet!” he snarled, in a voice most unlike him.

“Prince Shouto, you are under arrest,” the head guard announced, Shouto growling but withholding his quirk.

“That is King Shouto to you,” he spat. “You have no right to arrest me! And no reason.”

The guard went to speak again when he suddenly caught sight of Hitoshi. “You there! What are you doing?”

Hitoshi barely raised his head, swapping to an Endeavan accent Izuku didn’t even know he could do. “Fishing a stone out ‘s all. My buddy’s a right simpleton; third horse this season he’s lamed.”

The guard indicated for the others to hold Shouto before stomping over. He took in the situation before spotting Izuku in the gutter. “Fell from a horse picking up a stone? He’s more a liability than anything.”

“Too right,” Hitoshi agreed, voice dropping to what was supposed to be a whisper. “A silver or two to keep me quiet? Would help handsomely?” He nodded in Shouto’s direction but was met with a sword under the chin.

“Your life is your incentive to keep quiet.”

“Of course, of course,” Hitoshi said, hastily bowing and backing away, hauling Izuku up. “Come on ya useless lump. Let’s clear out!”

Izuku nodded, making to leave only to realise Hitoshi was taking as absolutely as long as possible to leave while looking exceptionally busy. Izuku didn’t know how to help, just kept petting his mare. As it was, they were there long enough for Izuku to hear Shouto’s argument continue with the guards.

“You cannot do this! What grounds do you even have?”

“The order has been given for your arrest on account of treason of the highest level: murdering your father, King Enji.”

“...and who gave this order?”

“Why, King Touya, of course.”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

Izuku made to move the second he saw Shouto being dragged away but Hitoshi’s grip on his arm stopped him from doing that. He went to complain only to catch sight of his friend’s face. Izuku froze. He’d never seen Hitoshi look that serious. There was no humour in his face, no glint in his eyes. It made Izuku swallow nervously, grudgingly walking two steps back and taking his place at Hitoshi’s side.

“If we cannot follow...what can we do?”

“We wait.”

Izuku’s head snapped up but Hitoshi ignored him, eyes calculating as they took in the castle before swapping to the city around them. He then looked up at the sky, frowning.

“King or not, Touya cannot execute Shouto without a trial. He is crown prince and the council is familiar with him,” Hitoshi said. “We have until midday, at least. Let us find a place to rest and plan.”

“B-but Shouto!” Izuku exclaimed.

Hitoshi’s gaze was flat. “You can do nothing for him now except help me. Prince or not, you cannot barge into another kingdom’s court unannounced.”

Izuku’s mouth opened and shut a few times before reluctantly nodding, knowing Hitoshi was right. Instead he held out his hand, as shaking as it was, managing a weak smile when Hitoshi took it. “So where?”

Hitoshi chewed on his bottom lip in thought. “When you’ve been here, where have you gone? Both as a servant and as the royals’ escort.”

Izuku pointed out the areas of the city, Hitoshi taking them as far from there as possible, lest Izuku be recognised. The south was where the main gate to the castle was, the north where the servants entrance was, so they headed west. East was the rougher part of town and while it had better places to hide, word often got around in seedy areas - or so Hitoshi told Izuku. Better to go west where the nobles were. The people there cared little for yet another rich person who treated others as dirt. Those were a dime a dozen, he explained. Izuku didn’t like it but he couldn’t help but agree.

Finding a rather posh looking inn, Hitoshi gave Izuku a once over before passing him a towel to clean his face with while Hitoshi dug through their bags and pulled out the nicest clothes Izuku had, intended for court visits with Shouto. Hitoshi dressed himself in them, walking them in the front door and being so downright disrespectful that Izuku cringed. It got him some sympathetic looks and Izuku realised what they looked liked; a noble and his consort. Hitoshi paid for a week and then handsomely more to not be disturbed. The grin he wore when adding that last statement had the owner shivering and Izuku didn’t blame them. He kept up his role, all soft and timid until they reached their room, bolt sliding home and Hitoshi sweeping everything off the table with an arm. He then pulled a roll of parchment from his bag.

“Draw me the castle as best you remember it.”

Izuku took a seat and reached for the quill Hitoshi was holding. He was in Hitoshi’s world now and if wanted to help Shouto, he had to play his game. So Izuku began to draw, Hitoshi coming to sit at his side and muttering under his breath as he watched line after line appear.

“I don’t understand though,” Izuku murmured as he moved onto sketching the east wing.

“Do not understand what?” Hitoshi asked.

“Touya. He...Papa has been unable to find news of him since I was five years of age. Shouto himself has been looking for him. And for him to appear now…”

Hitoshi remained silent for a moment. “Perhaps he did not want to be found. Not until the moment was right.” He then took the last page from Izuku, studying it intently. “You said Shouto accompanied you on your journey. That would have left Endeavour without anyone on the throne for near one month.”

“Shouto did not leave the throne unattended!” Izuku countered.

Hitoshi scoffed. “And who did he leave in his place?”

“Mom-...” Izuku felt the blood drain from his face before letting his head thump against the table. “Shouto left Momo on the throne. A close friend of his but an Ingeniun to the Endeavans. They would not have listened to her.”

“No, they would not have,” Hitoshi agreed brusquely. “At least you can be comforted by the knowledge that Shouto does like you. People do foolish things when they’re in love.”

Izuku went bright red, swatting a hand out and catching Hitoshi on the shoulder. “Stop. It...This is not the time.” Izuku sat up, tapping an area of the caste wall on his diagrams. “Here, do you think?”

Hitoshi shifted his finger over an inch or so. “Here.”

 

***

 

They were up before dawn, Hitoshi letting Izuku lead him to the area of wall they had chosen to enter by. The entrance they’d picked was by the stables, one that had little traffic and made the guards there a little less vigilant in their duties. Plus, the guards leaving would be tired after a long night and those arriving would still be waking. It was the perfect time to sneak in, hidden in the shadows.

“Where to?” Hitoshi asked as they ducked into an alcove.

Izuku scoured the windows above them before pointing to one. “There. That is Shouto’s room. I doubt Touya would take him there.”

“Unlikely,” Hitoshi agreed, reluctantly clinging to Izuku as he activated his quirk, both of them teetering on the windowsill before Izuku was able to flick the latch open. From there they tumbled to the floor. “Guards?” Hitoshi asked, wincing at the noise they’d made.

“Doubtful,” Izuku shot back, slipping over to the door and inching it open. “There is no one here to guard.” A glance down the hall confirmed as much.

Hitoshi joined him, cautiously stepping out and studying the layout before him. “Place me,” he ordered lightly. “I cannot catch my bearings. Is this the-”

“You there! Who are you?”

Izuku froze, blood turning to ice while Hitoshi turned around with little more than a bored look. He took in the guard storming towards them, sword drawn, with a bored look. “Who am I?” he drawled. “Surely the question is who are you?”

The guard spluttered indignantly. “I am not to explain myse-”

Snap.

“Take us to the servant’s entrance of the Great Hall. Avoid the other guards.”

The man turned around and did exactly that, Hitoshi looking far too pleased with himself. Izuku followed in wonder. He supposed he’d never seen Hitoshi use his quirk as, perhaps, it was meant to be used. They were led through back corridors Izuku didn’t even know about, barely gaining his bearings as they were halted outside the Great Hall. The guard pointed to a door.

“You can enter through here.”

Hitoshi merely nodded. “Return to your post. And forget about this experience.”

It was easy to see when he dropped his control, the Endeavan blinking twice before walking back the way they’d come. Hitoshi gave a snort of amusement, gesturing to the door. “I believe, Izuku, it is up to you from here.”

Izuku nodded, opening the door and then abruptly turning left, taking them up a staircase hidden within the walls. “From the top we may view the hall from above,” he explained. “If nothing else, we will gain a feel for the situation.”

“Indeed,” Hitoshi mused, joining him when Izuku reached one of the tiny windows, made so servants could observe the goings on without having to interfere; if they saw food or drink running low, they could send for more without having to circle the table.

But Izuku was interested in none of that. No, his eyes went straight to the throne, trying to catch a glimpse of Touya. To so suddenly appear and take the throne...he must have had informants, must have been close. Peering down into the Great Hall itself, Izuku frowned at the figure seated on the throne. He was horribly disfigured and scarred, hair an unnatural shade of black, limbs long and spindly.

Beside him, Hitoshi went ramrod straight. When Izuku looked at him, Hitoshi was borderline seething, Izuku taken aback. It was the most emotion he’d ever seen his friend show.

“Hitoshi?” he whispered.

“Dabi.”

Izuku whirled around, peering closer. “That...this is Dabi? The spy who…”

Hitoshi nodded tightly. “I...Papa suspected. When you proposed Dabi having a family as his reason for returning, it was dismissed as he was too young to have had one when he was found by All Might. But it made sense for Dabi to return to a family he was the child of. Especially with news of your coronation.”

The pieces clicked together, Izuku’s jaw clenching. “He knew exposing me would lead his father to war. That I then took Shouto...it only made things easier for him.”

“You couldn’t have known,” Hitoshi soothed, knowing where his thoughts were going. “But come, Shouto is not here. He must be still in the dungeons. The council will not be summoned til after the morning meal. We have time.”

Izuku gave Touya one last scowl before tearing himself away and making for the kitchens. It was a bit of a back-track but the passages were less watched. Getting through without being seen was a challenge but with Izuku’s knowledge and Hitoshi’s quirk, they were able to make it. From there it was a straight shot down to the dungeon.

“So,” Izuku said as they reached the stairs that led underground. “Do we...are we to free Shouto without alerting the guards? Or…”

“Izuku,” Hitoshi said dryly. “We will be seen. And should we destroy the dungeons to free Shouto, we would only make his position worse.”

“You’re saying we should let this take its course?” Izuku snapped.

Hitoshi’s nose twitched. “It would not be an entirely bad idea. The council may side with Shouto.”

“They will not,” Izuku countered. “I’ve have heard of them from Shouto. They are as into war as King Enji was.”

Hitoshi rolled his eyes. “What is it with Endeavans and warmongering?” He hummed in thought. “I suggest we bring Shouto to the council and give our own testimonies. And we can bring the law down. Touya may have claimed the throne but he has no right to it.”

“That will not work,” Izuku said, unconvinced. “Shouto killed their king.”

“We can only try. Our only other option is to free Shouto and run. He would spend forever hidden away within Yuuei’s walls.”

“There must be some other way!”

“...trial by combat?”

Izuku’s head snapped up. “Hitoshi! You canno-...You…” Izuku trailed off. “That...Now that I think on it…”

They exchanged looks. That, it seemed, was the best idea they were going to come up with and probably the only one they had enough time to pull off. Izuku curled his hands into fists as footsteps came up from the dungeons. “I capture the guards and you silence them?”

“Might as well,” Hitoshi sighed, waving Izuku away with a hand.

Izuku smiled grimly before launching himself down the stairs. The guard yelled in alarm, Izuku hastily slapping a hand over his mouth. Hitoshi was there and then Izuku was moving on. Within minutes the pair had every guard and servant in the dungeons corralled into one cell, slamming the door shut and twisting the lock with an odd sense of satisfaction.

“Any sign of him?”

Izuku shook his head. “Not yet.”

Snagging the keys from the guard who had them, Hitoshi indicated Izuku to go first, following behind with a torch. Unlike Yuuei and Ingenium, there were no windows in these dungeons. They were dank, dark, and wholly unpleasant. Being brought down here was punishment enough. A few cells later, they didn’t find Shouto, but they did find Momo and Kyouka. Even as Hitoshi was testing the keys, Izuku was crouching down, wincing at the bruises and dried blood on his friends’ faces.

“Momo?”

The pair jerked awake, eyes wide. “Deku!” Momo gasped, horrified. “You cannot be here!”

“I be where I like,” Izuku said shortly, Hitoshi finally winning with the door. Izuku used his quirk to break the shackles, helping Kyouka to her feet as Hitoshi did the same with Momo. “Have you seen Shouto?”

“They brought him in last night,” Kyouka said, nodding to their left. “He was taken that way. The guards...they were too scared to lay a hand on him.”

Izuku gave Hitoshi a meaningful look. “We can use that,” Hitoshi murmured back. “If not loyal, they’re at least afraid of him.”

“He’s always been their prince. Touya is blood but that may not be enough,” Izuku agreed, processing this new revelation.

“Who do you trust more; the devil you know or the devil you don’t?”

“The guards whisper,” Momo said as Kyouka led the way. “They don’t like Touya. They say at least King Enji was not ashamed of Shouto. They call Touya “coward” and “usurper”.”

“As would I,” Hitoshi scoffed before coming to an abrupt halt. “Ah.”

There was only one thing that could mean, Izuku bolting to the cell closest to Hitoshi. As he’d suspected, Shouto was sitting inside, chained to the wall and head hung low. At their voices, his head lifted ever so slightly, only to then freeze at the sight of Izuku. His attention then swapped to Hitoshi.

“Why would you bring him here?

Hitoshi shrugged, opening the cell door with ease. “Have you ever tried to stop him? He is rather a force to overcome.”

“My brother will kill him,” Shouto hissed.

“He is standing right here,” Izuku snapped, arms folded stiffly. “And I...I should appreciate not being ignored.”

Shouto blinked while Hitoshi feigned a groan, unlocking Shouto’s shackles. “Princes. Insufferable, all of you.”

That managed a smile out of Izuku although it didn’t last long. Soon he was throwing himself into Shouto’s arms, squeezing him tightly before pulling back and checking for injuries.

“I’m fine,” Shouto said dismissively. “It would look bad upon...Touya to hurt me.”

“I told you once your brother may not approve of you,” Izuku scolded gently. “Though out of your control, you took the throne from him. In his own form of justice, he has taken it back.”

Shouto’s lips pursed. “I see now I was foolish. Now come,” he said, leaving the cell and making for the exit, brash as always. “Let us come have talks with him.”

Izuku pulled him up with a hand even as Hitoshi was saying, “Do you think he will honestly agree to talks? To negotiate with you after nineteen years of deception? He has played this game too long. He will not give up his prize.”

“Which is why,” Izuku cut in before Shouto could argue back - something he looked ripe to do. “We suggest trial by combat.”

Shouto went stock still. “I...You want me to take arms against my family and...kill another?”

No!” Izuku cried.

“You simply have to defeat him,” Momo said, laying a hand on Shouto’s arm. “There is no need for death here.”

“She is right,” Kyouka agreed before pointing at Izuku and Hitoshi. “And their plan makes sense. Go in there to negotiate but have this as your back line.”

Shouto hesitated before nodding. He then turned to Momo. “I cannot go in unarmed. A sword, if you please.”

Momo was quick to make one with her quirk and from the way Shouto handled it with ease, Izuku surmised they had done this many times. Momo knew the exact weight and length Shouto preferred to use. Certainly a convenient power and definitely one King Enji would have liked to get his hands on. He could understand why Momo had been propositioned as Shouto’s bride, amongst other reasons.

Snapping back to attention as Shouto started scaling the stairs, Izuku frowned when he saw that he’d clearly just left a conversation with Hitoshi and they both looked...secretive. Hitoshi just smirked at him though so Izuku knew he wasn’t going to get any answers within the next hour or so. “You will fill me in afterwards?” he asked as they fell into step.

“I doubt I’ll need to,” was all Hitoshi said before falling silent.

Izuku didn’t blame him; they all did. Because Shouto was about to fling open the doors to the Great Hall and normally Izuku would stop him but perhaps, this once, the display of power and authority was needed. It certainly got the attention of those inside, the council whipping around while Touya’s forehead pinched into a scowl.

“Brother,” he greeted flatly. “I do not remember summoning you.”

“I was not aware I needed to be summoned,” Shouto said, slipping into the chair at the opposing head of the table. “What with my being king.”

Touya’s lips quirked into a grin. “I’m afraid that duty has fallen to me. Your treasonous acts were...not well received.”

“As I doubt were yours. The years you have spent spying on Endeavour, safe within Yuuei’s walls.” Touya paled slightly and the room went silent. Shouto raised an eyebrow. “You did not say where you had been?”

“It was I who broke the news of Prince Izuku’s announcement!”

“And it was I who attended,” Shouto rebuffed, gesturing behind himself lazily. “See? He is here now, as a token of goodwill between our two kingdoms.”

Izuku took that as his cue, watching several mouths drop and watching other’s eyes widen. Ah, they recognised him then. He bowed lowly. “Prince Izuku of Yuuei. My father recently signed a peace treaty with King Shouto.” He feigned confusion. “I do not know how it would stand with Prince Touya.”

Touya, it seemed, was smart enough not to bite, just giving Izuku a patronising look. “I must correct you, the title is King Touya. Communications must be slow.”

Izuku returned in kind. “Ah, perhaps you are unaware, what with having spent so long in Yuuei...but in Endeavour it is custom for the Crown Prince to ascend to the throne. In this instance, it is Shouto. Th-that his father died was an accident; those on the battlefield will confirm.” Scouring the council, his eyes locked on a man he recognised, pointing to him ever so casually. “You, m’lord. You bore witness to the final battle; I saw you. You will agree that while King Enji and Prince Shouto were fighting, there was no intent to kill, that it was Enji slipping that caused his downfall?”

There was a beat and then hushed whispers broke out.

“Is this true?”
“You were there, he speaks the truth!”
“Did you see the finishing blow?”

The councillor cleared his throat, forehead beaded with sweat. He then glanced at Shouto, head bowing. “It is true,” he admitted, voice a hoarse whisper. “The blow was accidental. Prince Shouto...immediately dropped his sword and was overcome with grief.”

A stretch of the truth but Izuku would take it.

“I do not mean to steal the throne from you, brother,” Shouto said, calling Touya’s attention back to him. “I know the wrongs my father did and I will not repeat them. However, I cannot let you rule in my stead. I know nothing of your character and you are woefully unprepared.”

Smoke abruptly rose from the other side of the table, Touya launching to his feet, hands wrapped in icy, blue flames. “I have waited my whole life for this day!”

“You hid!” Shouto accused, also getting to his feet. “At least I endured.” He threw his sword onto the table. “Let us battle then. The throne shall be handed to the victor.”

Touya’s steely gaze flickered over the councillors, all who were hastily looking away. “I see your trust is a fake as you are. But take note; if I defeat my brother, your loyalty will be unwavering.”

There were no objections so into the courtyard they went. Kyouka had already run ahead and announced the news, crowds of guards, servants, and even commoners soon filling the palace courtyard. The parapets above were full of guards who were doing their very worst to pretend they were still on duty and more than one noble was rushing up the palace steps, ready to see what fate determined.

“Remember,” Izuku said as he helped Shouto secure his light amour, “There is no need to kill. Touya is not your father. He is hurt, as you are. Your father has scarred you both; he is the real enemy here.”

Shouto blinked, shaking his head in disbelief. “Truly, who made you so wise?” he murmured, thumbing Izuku’s cheek. He pressed their foreheads together briefly. “Watch me?”

“Of course,” Izuku said, offended. That got the tiniest laugh from Shouto, Izuku’s composure cracking a little.

It started with a loud trumpeting and then the two princes crossed blades. There was a rhythm of strike-parry, strike-parry, but then there were also quirks to take in and it was easy to lose balance on ice, to be caught off guard by fire suddenly appearing. Izuku could see it though, could see it almost from the start:

Touya was hopelessly overwhelmed.

Shouto had been trained to fight from birth, had trained with Eijirou and Ochako and Tenya from a young age. Had been trained - for want of a better word - by his father for even longer. He could fight. Touya could not. If he’d been hoping for the advantage of height, maybe of speed, he was sorely mistaken. Shouto could match height with strength, speed with quirks.

With one final devastating blow, Shouto knocked Touya to the ground. He held the sword to his neck. “You have lost.”

“Then do it!”

Shouto yanked his sword back as Touya scrambled up, almost as if trying to impale himself. “No.” Shouto said firmly. “I won’t kill you. I’m not my father.”

Touya scoffed. “Then what will you do?”

Shouto hesitated before dropping to his knees so he and his brother were eye-level. He tossed both their swords aside, Touya frozen in shock. “What will I do?” he repeated. Shouto shrugged. “First, I should like to bring Mother back here. And Fuyumi, and Natsuo. Too long have they been ostracised. There are several laws I wish to abolish but after that...keep peace, I suppose.”

Touya stared at him blankly. “You...Is this a joke to you! You are not so kind!”

“Am I not?” Shouto challenged. “You hardly know me. And as for you-”

“Father!”

Izuku jumped, knocked back as a young man near his own age pushed passed, coming to an incredulous halt in front of Touya. Touya’s skin lost every bit of colour it had, glancing between Shouto and the newcomer. “Fu-...Fumikage, what are you doing here? Go!”

Fumikage shook his head. “So this is where you have gone? This is why you left Papa and me?”

Izuku stumbled back once more, only to find hands curling over his shoulder. He sighed in exasperation. “What have you done Hitoshi?”

He could hear his friend’s smugness as he spoke. “Papa was convinced Dabi was Touya. As a result, he expected something like this might happen. And so, we looked for weak points.”

Izuku conceded the point, watching Touya stiffen and then following his line of sight. His own eyes widened in response. He recognised the man, one of All Might’s heroes. Hawks, his name was. Or rather, the nickname he’d been given. He then looked between Hawks, Touya, and Fumikage. Oh.

“You know of my family?” Touya asked Shouto, voice shaking traitorously.

“I didn’t, until this morning.” Ah, so that’s what he and Hitoshi had been talking about. “But it makes my decision of what to do with you that much easier.”

“And what, pray, is that?” Touya growled, still urging Fumikage to leave his side.

“You have tried to steal the throne,” Shouto said calmly, “I cannot call you Prince. However, I should like to make you and your family nobles, you an Earl to be precise, in recompense for what our father has done to you. I believe Yuuei is offering the same.”

Izuku went to protest when he felt Hitoshi nudge him and apparently they were. He pasted a smile on his face. “Of course. You have spent longer in my kingdom than this one.” He looked to Hawks and Fumikage. “Plus, your family are Yuueian. You should receive the same honour in whichever kingdom you choose to live, or both if that is more what you desire.”

“This…” Touya looked between them. “This cannot be.”

“I told you,” Shouto said, getting to his feet and waving Hawks over. “I am not my father.”

Turning on his heel, he addressed the servant closest. “Prepare my brother and his family a room. And send a company to bring the Queen and Prince Natsuo and Princess Fuyumi here!”

“Y-yes Your Majesty!” the servant stammered, tripping over his feet in his haste.

The crowd, who had been watching in awe, slowly dispersed. Izuku took that moment to jog to Shouto’s side. “You have done your kingdom proud.”

Shouto nodded. “I hope so. We need not have another war so soon, let alone a civil one.”

“I agr-”

“Shouto!”

The pair turned around, Touya at the bottom of the stairs, still wide-eyed and disbelieving. “I did not give my answer!” he blurted. “And I...Yes. I-...We would be honoured.” He bowed his head. “Thank you for the pardon.”

Shouto scoffed. “Don’t bow to me. We’re family. Now come inside.”

Shouto left them to it after that, waiting until they were alone before slipping his hand into Izuku’s. He dragged them down corridors Izuku recognised all too clearly, unsurprised when they ended up in Shouto’s chambers. Once the door shut, Shouto’s shoulders dropped, a hand scrubbing his face wearily. “Lie with me?”

Izuku laughed, tweaking his nose. “You smell awful Shouto, as much as I like you. Bathe first.”

“You will be here when I return?” Shouto pressed.

“I promise,” Izuku said, pushing Shouto towards the bathroom. His own clothes weren’t much better - though at least he had bathed the night before - so Izuku tossed them aside, choosing a loose set from Shouto’s wardrobe and pulling them on. He settled down on Shouto’s bed, unaware he had fallen asleep until Shouto joining him work him up. “Shou’?”

“Hush,” Shouto whispered, combing his hair off his forehead. “Go back to sleep. I am here.”

Izuku didn’t answer, just curled in closer. Words could wait.

 

***

 

“It is immature to come up here.”

Izuku poked his tongue out, jumping several steps ahead so Shouto could not reach him. “You admit you have not seen the view from the top of your own castle. There is nothing immature about it!”

“No, what is immature is-...dammit!” Izuku grinned as he avoided another swipe. “Is your reasoning behind this. I have no great desire to be up here.”

“And yet I do,” Izuku shot back, pulling open the door at the top of turret and waiting for Shouto to join him. “Now please, come see the view with me?”

Shouto grumbled but took his hand, stepping out into the night and onto the parapets that lined the impressive castle walls. Izuku felt his breath leave in a rush, the city below twinkling and alive with music as people celebrated the return of King Shouto. Tomorrow he would be sworn in and the festivities would start all over again.

“It’s beautiful,” Izuku breathed, leaning well over the edge.

Shouto didn’t pull him back, just wrapped his arms around him from behind. “Do be careful,” he chided. “Your father would not approve of me doing away with his favourite son.”

“I’m his only son,” Izuku quipped, though he leant back into Shouto’s arms and away from the edge. “But, do you not agree?”

“I do,” Shouto said, chin slotting over Izuku’s shoulder. “The view is marvellous. I admit I am jealous I have not been privy to it before.”

Izuku was content with that answer, shivering as the breeze whipped around them. Shouto’s arms tightened, warmth emanating from his left side. Izuku snuggled in closer, grinning when he heard Shouto huff with amusement. “Are you about to comment once again about how soft Yuueians are?”

Shouto chuckled. “You think I would after your most recent displays? You are more akin to a titan.”

“I am strong,” Izuku agreed, swivelling around. “Although that does not stop me being soft. As with everything, balance is the key.” He bounced on his toes nervously before, “Can I ask you for just one kiss?”

Shouto hummed in displease. “Slowly, we agreed.”

“That is why I requested one!”

Izuku then whined when a kiss was placed on his forehead. Shouto’s name was already coming off his lips when he was silence, lips captured. Shouto kissed him deeply, a hand curled around his neck. Izuku whimpered, so, so unsatisfied when Shouto pulled away.

“One,” he reminded far too cheekily for Izuku’s liking. “Perhaps tomorrow, you can grant me one in return?”

“Tomorrow you shall be lucky if I talk to you,” Izuku teased, pressing a kiss to Shouto’s cheek. “But now it is time for me to retire.”

Shouto let him go easily. “Join me for breakfast?”

Izuku grinned. “I’d love to!”

 

***

 

Some two weeks later they were back on Yuueian soil. Izuku had since been introduced to Queen Rei and Shouto’s siblings, Fuyumi and Natsuo. They were skittish, which Izuku could admit was no fault of theirs, but also incredibly kind. It made Izuku’s heart ache, knowing how different Shouto would have been had his mother been there to raise him. All four Todorokis were particularly protective of their mother and Izuku had yet to see her on her own. She was always on the arm of one of her children, though she was perfectly able to walk on her own. Natsuo had taken a shine to Hitoshi and Izuku feared their little muttering sessions, which would undoubtedly lead to no good. Already Hitoshi had made arrangements for Natsuo to see Yuuei sometime in the spring and Izuku could only fear the worst.

“Do you think,” Hitoshi drawled as their horses were led away by servants. “That we might now be given a chance to rest?”

Izuku snorted. “I should hope so! Although I also doubt it, with my experience.”

“I think it is you,” Hitoshi said as they entered the palace. “There is a curse upon you, I am sure of it.”

“Oh I believe you. I have thought the same thing many times myself.”

Hitoshi smacked him over the head. “Oh hush you. For as much trouble as you get into, you always come out the other side relatively unharmed. That speaks more of luck than anything.”

“Huh, I suppose you are right,” Izuku mused, spotting Aizawa and waving. The man gave a cursory one back but look as unimpressed as always.

“Touya accept our terms?”

“With his husband and child at his side?” Hitoshi asked back. “Of course.”

“You, the both of you, scare me sometimes,” Izuku muttered, parting ways with the father-son pair and heading to his own chambers. His belongings were tossed onto his bed haphazardly, his intent to put them away after greeting his parents. Crossing the hall, Izuku frowned at hearing his name, as well as the voices of his mother, his father, and Tsukauchi.

“-to tell Izuku. He’s so old now.”

“Then he’ll understand,” was Tsukauchi’s prim answer.

“That is easy for you to say,” Toshinori said gruffly, Izuku deciding the best way to handle this was simply head on.

Pushing the door open, he was met with startled looks. Izuku ignored them, instead searching for the source of whatever this “problem” may be. It didn’t take him long, limbs locking up.

“I-Izuku?” Inko asked.

Izuku just stood there for another second before beaming. “Mama!” he cried, dashing across the room and throwing himself onto his knees in front of where she was sitting, hands hovering over her rounded stomach. “Are you...truly…?”

Inko smiled, guiding his hands down. “I think you’ve waited long enough, don’t you?”

 

***



Chapter Text



***

 

“We haven’t told anyone outside this room,” Inko said, smiling softly as Izuku continue to stare at her in awe.

Izuku blinked. “Then I should...keep it a secret?”

“We will keep it a quiet a little longer,” Toshinori said, “But if your friends can keep secrets, you have our blessing to tell them.”

Izuku looked to his mother, who nodded. “They have shared so much with you over the years. Now you have something to share back.”

That was all Izuku needed, flinging himself to his feet. He only paused long enough to give his mother and father a swift kiss to the cheek before hurrying out the door. He slipped down corridor after corridor and, with a few enquiries, was able to find Ochako in the gardens. She waved upon seeing him, gesturing down at her sweat-soaked clothes in a helpless way. Izuku didn’t care - although he would like to discover who she was training with at a later time. No, he just hugged her ferociously, making her laugh when her feet left the ground.

“De-...Izuku!” she scolded through her laughter. “What has gotten into you?”

Izuku dropped her and pulled away, though he took her hands in his. “I have news to share, if you promise to tell no one.”

Ochako nodded instantly, already matching his smile despite not knowing why. “Finally, I’m first to know something! So please, please Izuku, please, tell me!”

Izuku dropped his voice low, bringing her that little bit closer. “I am to be a big brother. Mama is with child.”

Ochako’s mouth dropped open before she clapped a hand over her mouth to stop herself from squealing. She then took it upon herself to hug Izuku, whisking him up. “Izuku! That’s wonderful,” she gushed. “You shall make the best brother, I know it! You will spoil that poor child.”

Izuku poked his tongue out. “So what if I do? I will not be alone. Papa could never spoil me so I’m sure this one will get the full force of it.”

His friend’s expression saddened for a second before returning back to its bright state. “I’m sure you’re right. All Might does not seem able to do things by halves.”

Izuku was unable to hide an amused snort, slinging an arm around Ochako’s shoulders and letting his head rest against hers. “It will be nice, I think.”

Ochako hummed an agreement. “And to think, with another heir, you are free to elope with Shouto all you want.”

The words were accompanied by a wink, Izuku going bright red and pushing her away. “O-Ochako!” he stammered in amongst her loud laughs. He pouted and she returned it. They then flopped onto the grass to enjoy the sun and pass the time. It was good, Izuku decided, having friends.

 

***

 

Speaking of Shouto, with him being king it was more difficult for him to leave Endeavour, especially considering what had happened last time. Touya may have made his apologies but there was still an unease about the kingdom. Shouto had to stay put, for the sake of his people. Izuku understood and was content with the letters Shouto sent. They were near weekly at this point, the two of them in constant contact. Izuku had just received the latest one, reading through it once quickly to make sure nothing was amiss and then slower so he could soak in the details. He looked up at the sound of his door opening though, smiling when his mother walked in.

“What are you up to Izuku?” she asked, ruffling his hair.

He playfully shook her off, holding up the parchment. “Simply a letter from Shouto.”

Inko made no move to read it but Izuku placed it in her hands. “He writes nothing you are not privy to.”

“Maybe not,” Inko conceded. “But you should be allowed some privacy.” She then paused mid-way through handing it back. “Unless...you wish to discuss the contents?”

Izuku shook his head, folding the letter and tucking it away in his drawer. “No. He is doing well. Better, I think, with his siblings around. They are all strangers to each other but they are family.” He shrugged. “Perhaps that is enough.”

Inko mulled on that, fussing with Izuku’s hair again, much to his chagrin. “Touya has returned to Yuuei, did you know?”

Izuku straightened, eyes widening somewhat. “He did? Shouto never said as much.”

“He has only just arrived,” Inko told him. “I doubt Shouto knew at the time of writing his letter. Touya admits he snuck out.”

“You have spoken to him?”

“Not personally,” Inko said. “But I was present. He came to apologise to Toshinori. Of course, we cannot forgive him but we also agreed to pardon him for Shouto’s sake so he must be allowed to stay. He and his husband have found a homestead on the outskirts of town they will take up. I think it will do him good,” she murmured. “To be away from palaces and politics for a time.”

Izuku agreed. “I wish I could say the same. However, all my friends reside in palaces.”

“You can blame Katsuki for that,” he was informed swiftly, making him chuckle. “And also, your father has wished me to tell you, he would like to meet with King Shouto soon and discuss the land Shouto has gifted to us in detail.”

Izuku promptly perked up, near falling off his chair. “How soon Mama?”

“Toshinori will send the invitation tonight. If the timing suits, Shouto will be here in little over a month.”

Izuku buried his head in his hands, hating how his face immediately heated up. How ridiculous was it that he was so excited to see Shouto again? What right did he have to feel so giddy? He was dragged out of his thoughts by Inko laying a hand on his back, rubbing it gently.

“Take care Izuku, but also follow your heart.”

Izuku looked up, nodding seriously. “I will Mama.”

 

***

 

Of course, with an invitation from All Might, Shouto could barely refuse. He left his mother to watch the throne in his stead and Natsuo and Fuyumi were to be vigilant at all times to make sure things remained in order. Thankfully, everything in Endeavour seemed to have settled. Shouto had dominated his position and was proving to be just as powerful as his father. Powerful, but not cruel. The difference was glaringly obvious.

When Shouto arrived he was snapped up in meetings but the second he was free, Izuku was making for the Great Hall, unable to suppress a grin when he found Shouto already heading in the directions of his chambers.

“Were you, perchance, looking for me?” he asked.

Shouto merely rolled his eyes before bringing Izuku into his arms, burying his face in his neck. Izuku didn’t hesitate to return the hug, blushing when Shouto kissed his cheek. “I assume from your direction you were coming to meet me and were not busy?”

“I’m always busy,” Izuku quipped. “But I can spare some time.”

Shouto’s eyes narrowed. “How welcome that makes me feel.” But he was smiling, linking their fingers together. “If it suits, I should like to visit the gardens.”

Izuku nodded, following Shouto thoughtlessly for a time before realising they were heading in entirely the wrong direction. “Shouto, th-this is not the way,” he said, giving the barest tug.

“I know,” was the reply, Izuku frowning. “But I have something I wish to collect from my chambers first.”

“Oh.”

It was the only thing Izuku could think to say. The route to Shouto’s guest chambers was all but ingrained into his head, Izuku able to make the journey without thought. Rather, he took the time to truly take Shouto in. Even though it had been but three months, he looked older, wiser. His hair was shorter than it had been when last Izuku had seen him, but nothing too radical. It still brushed against his ears and covered his forehead somewhat.

Izuku came to a halt, consequently bringing Shouto to one too, and cautiously reached out. His fingers traced the burn on Shouto’s face ever so lightly. “You still hide it.”

Shouto grimaced. “It...Mother does not like the constant reminder of what she did to me.”

“She was not herself,” Izuku reminded gently.

The young king sighed. “I am aware. As are you. Mother, however, still struggles with grief.”

Izuku hesitated before brushing the locks of hair away. “Can I…?”

Shouto pouted, making Izuku giggle. “This is twice you have asked me. I am convinced you are only fascinated with my hair.”

“It’s better than mine,” Izuku snorted, reaching for a tie only to have Shouto’s hand curl around his wrist.

“Wait until we reach my chambers. At least there I will be able to sit, make your task easier.”

Izuku’s expression turned scandalised. “Will none of you ever let it go that I am the shortest of us all?”

“Not since even Ochako outgrew you.”

“It is barely an inch!” Izuku cried, petulantly digging his heels in as Shouto tried to pull him along. A stern look had him relenting though, Izuku giving an apologetic squeeze to his hand.

They entered Shouto’s room, Shouto throwing himself into the chair and waving at his hair dismissively. Izuku smiled, coming up behind him and combing the strands with his fingers a few times. He muffled giggles when Shouto subconsciously leant into the touch. Brushing his hair for perhaps a little longer than necessary, Izuku finally pulled the middle up into a bun, tidying the few stray hairs that made themselves known. He patted Shouto’s shoulders twice to let him know he was done and the next thing he knew, Shouto was standing and pulling him into a kiss.

“I missed you,” he breathed against his lips.

Izuku gave Shouto a chaste kiss of his own. “As have I. It is good to see you again.”

“Indeed,” Shouto agreed before reaching for a wrapped parcel on his desk. “And as such, this is for you.”

“W-what?” Izuku spluttered, taking the present only because Shouto thrust it into his hands. He tentatively undid the tie, lifting the lid and gasping at the candied fruit inside; an Endeavan speciality. “Shouto...I don’t...thank you.” He then held out a hand. “Come enjoy these with me in the gardens?”

Shouto nodded, taking his hand and the pair finally made their way outside. They settled underneath a tree and exchanged sweet treats as they whispered amongst themselves. And if servants started muttering anew, no one did anything to stop them.

 

***

 

When courting Shouto the first time, Izuku hadn’t seen anything wrong with the way they did things. This time though...This time everything was so different and he suddenly understood. There was so much more to it than he had imagined. That first day in the gardens, he and Shouto had spoke for hours about things Izuku couldn’t believe they didn’t know about each other; their favourite colours, their favourite places to go, whether they preferred indoors or outdoors, what they did for amusement. It was almost shocking for Izuku to realise he didn’t know what Shouto’s favourite food was or that he’d had a hunting dog for near twelve years. Shouto, likewise, never knew that Izuku could navigate using the stars or that he loved music but was utterly hopeless at it.

Some three days later they’d gone into the capital together, a feat made easier now that Izuku was revealed as prince. It was not so odd to see a prince and a king together, especially not when they were so close in age. Shouto was dragged from bakery to wood carving shop and then back around to find the inns with the best ale. Izuku had even managed to persuade him to try his hand at some folk dances, though he wasn’t very good. They’d parted with smiles, a kiss, and then soft brushes of noses.

They’d spent one last afternoon together before Shouto had had to return to Endeavour, which had simply consisted of them tucked up in Shouto’s room and playing board games as the rain hammered down. Izuku finally found his equal in Fox and Geese, losing a handful of times to Shouto and making him sour playfully. Shouto had shown him no mercy, merely tossing a grape his way. Izuku had attempted to catch it in his mouth but it had struck his nose and gone rolling across the floor, much to his despair and Shouto’s amusement.

Not to mention that every morning when Izuku woke up, a white rose and a red rose were awaiting on his bedside table. And when Shouto turned in of a night time, there was always a carnation resting upon his pillow.

Their goodbye was said privately in the confines of Izuku’s chambers, soft, trailing kisses and hushed moans. And then Shouto was gone, though with a promise to return as soon as he could. It left a fluttering in Izuku’s heart and he was sure he didn’t stop grinning like a fool all day.

 

***

 

Izuku was sorting through a list of requests made by the people of Yuuei when a body came and joined him, presence looming over his shoulder. From that alone Izuku knew who it was. He reached a hand up, smiling when it was taken and their fingers interlaced.

“What brings you here Hitoshi?” he asked quietly, flicking through a report of the north-west and comparing it to the assistance asked for in the north. He found where exchanges could be made, writing down a note to himself.

“A question, I suppose.”

“That’s odd for you,” Izuku murmured, trying to decipher the next piece of handwriting. “You usually come with answers not questions.”

“True,” he replied. “But this is an answer I can’t determine on my own.”

Izuku frowned, putting his paper down and tilting his head up. “What answer?”

Hitoshi awkwardly scratched at the back of his neck before carefully asking, “Do you intend to ask for Shouto’s hand again?”

Izuku choked on his inhale, scowling at Hitoshi’s all too proud face. “No,” he wheezed. “I...I shall not make that mistake again.”

Hitoshi rounded his chair, sitting himself on the table so Izuku had no choice but to look at him. “And why not? You think I did not see you two on his last visit? He appears much changed.”

“You saw us for barely two weeks,” Izuku pointed out. “That is nothing compared to the six months we last had.”

“True,” Hitoshi conceded. “But even though it ended badly, surely it counts? I know this is perhaps a more official courtship, and a more meaningful one, but it does not do away with the one you’ve already had.”

“That was over two years ago Hitoshi,” Izuku said, reaching around him for his papers only to be stopped. “Hitoshi.”

Hitoshi wasn’t moved, as always. He now had one eyebrow raised. “You think you have both not matured in two years? The older you are, the easier it is to decide if someone is right for you. Shouto’s views have changed; even I can see it. Your feelings haven’t changed, that is obvious. And Shouto, if anything, has at last managed to convince me he has some.” At Izuku’s surprised gaze, he laughed. “You should see how he looks at you. Once it was fondness. Now it is as though you hung the very stars for him.”

“Hitoshi!” Izuku squeaked, ducking into his collar.

“Hush,” his friend scolded. “I am merely stating fact. And so...will you ask again?”

Izuku hesitated a moment before shaking his head. “No. Call me immature but it was I who asked last time. If Shouto really wants this...then I prefer he ask me.”

“That is not immature at all,” Hitoshi said. “In fact, I think it very smart.” He pressed their foreheads together, huffing in amusement when Izuku’s nose tapped against his. “Although just know, it will be my duty to ensure he knows exactly what he has. The second he mistreats you, I will be there.”

Izuku squawked, torn between laughing and groaning. In the end he settled for letting his head fall against Hitoshi’s chest. “I will say thank you, as it is polite, but I shall never need it.”

“Because he’ll treat you properly?”

“Yes, I think he will. And if he does not...well, I have a rather powerful quirk.”

Hitoshi stared at him incredulously before bursting into laughter. “Return to your work; I have distracted you too long.”

Izuku nodded, waving his friend off. When his father found him hours later, he was still up to his elbows in paperwork. Such was the life of a royal.

 

***

 

Shouto returned some two months later. There was no lie regarding business, no coincidently arranged meetings with Toshinori. No, he came simply to visit Izuku. That in itself was a bold statement and if people hadn’t been paying attention, they certainly were now. Of course, no one imagined that the pair were already as serious as they were - most assumed it nothing more than an expression of interest. Toshinori had given Izuku a look when he’d gone to greet Shouto so Izuku had offered little more than a bow and a handshake. Shouto had returned in kind but soon they were up in Izuku’s chambers and the door was locked.

“Why do I get the feeling your father is eyeing me off?”

Izuku just laughed, tugging Shouto to the bed before flopping down onto the covers. “He is very protective of me. He cannot stand the thought of an Endeavan king whisking me away.”

“Do you think I would?” Shouto asked softly, taking a seat on the end of the bed gingerly. At Izuku’s quizzical look, he expanded. “Take you away? Make you live in Endeavour?”

Izuku sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “I admit I have thought about it too. We are not Eijirou and Kacchan. Neither of us would renounce our kingdom.”

Shouto dropped down beside him, shoulders bumping together. “I have recently gained control of mine. And you...you have waited your whole life to be acknowledged by yours.”

There was no answer forthcoming and Izuku knew that they would cross that bridge if they came to it. If they ever did. Shaking the thought away, Izuku rolled over, fingers running over Shouto’s chest distractedly. “Tell me of Endeavour?”

“There is nothing to tell,” Shouto said, tsk-ing at his actions and interlacing their fingers before rolling over himself, leaving them nose-to-nose. “And what of Yuuei? Your mother, is she well?”

That was always the right question to ask Izuku at the moment, his face lighting up. “Very! She is not as up to things as she once was but she is doing well. I believe she has knitted enough to clothe every newborn in the kingdom.”

Shouto smiled softly. “And you? Excited, I take it.”

“Of course, how can I not be?” he asked. “I...I admit to be feeling almost too old to have a sibling but also I feel I will be able to savour it more. Did you know,” Izuku added excitedly, “that Papa asked me to name the child? I refused, as I think it should be Mama’s choice as Papa chose my name but still...I feel h-honoured that he would even ask.”

“Your father named you?” Shouto repeated in almost surprise.

Izuku gave a nod. “He came up with both my name and the name ‘Deku’. Mama always hated ‘Deku’.”

“I can understand why,” Shouto murmured. “It doesn’t have the nicest meaning.”

Izuku shrugged, pushing himself up. “It served its purpose, as it was meant to. Kacchan still holds onto it.”

“He shouldn’t,” Shouto said sternly.

Izuku poked him in the forehead none too gently. “You have not long gotten out of the habit yourself so you cannot judge. Also, Kacchan has used that name near everyday for twenty-one years. I am Deku to him as much as he is Kacchan to me.”

Shouto mulled that over. “I see.” He then shifted up the bed, holding out a hand. “I am tired from my journey. Lie with me?”

Izuku made to move only to glance out the window, wincing at the moon’s position. “Shouto...it is past supper time. If we were to fall asleep now, we would not wake until dawn.”

“Ah.”

Izuku gave a helpless shrug.

Shouto just nodded, slipping off the bed. “It would do harm to our reputations for me to found here. I would prefer not to do that to you.” He drew Izuku into a kiss, Izuku shivering when Shouto parted his lips with a swipe of his tongue. Izuku latched onto the contact, pulling Shouto closer. When the kiss ended, he started another and then another until Shouto was all but shaking. “Izuku,” he hissed. “If you do not stop…”

“Then what?” Izuku challenged. “Shouto, please.”

Shouto put a hand over Izuku’s mouth, kissing the back of it before pulling away and shaking his head. “Let us keep this slow. I will not rush you.”

With that, Shouto took his leave from the room. Izuku threw himself into his pillows, shouting in frustration. He could handle slow. But this? This was pure torture.

 

***

 

Another four days passed, three days before Shouto was due to return to Endeavour. They were training now, testing their quirks on each other as they flashed across the arena. Ice went one way, fire another, and between them both, lightning. It crackled green and didn’t hurt but Shouto had quickly come to realise the power Izuku’s limbs had when his skin glowed like that. Even the rain hadn’t stopped them, the two of them continuing long after the ground turned to mud. Eventually though, the sun dipped over the horizon and they were left in darkness too perilous to train in.

The pair conceded defeat, heading inside. Izuku led the way, hesitating at a turn, taking in Shouto’s wet clothes, and then pulling him down a different hall. Shouto made to protest but quickly shut his mouth, lips pursing. He didn’t look too surprised when they arrived at Izuku’s chambers, the bolt sliding shut behind them.

Izuku’s hands folded together nervously. “We don’t...we don’t have to…”

Shouto tilted his chin up with a hand. “Is this something you want?”

“If...if you want it,” Izuku whispered, jumping but also being soothed when Shouto took his hands.

“You don’t think this too fast?”

“I agreed we ought to take this slow but your version of slow is near torture.” Izuku’s thumbs traced the back of Shouto’s hands. “However I...I want you to want this as much as I do. If you are not ready, I-”

Izuku was silenced by Shouto’s lips pressing against his. “I want this,” he assured. “Only...I did not know how to act nor how to appear as though I was not taking advantage of you.”

“You would never,” Izuku assured, pulling back and rolling his eyes when Shouto looked horrified. “We are both caked with mud and sweat. I am sure a bath would not go astray.”

Shouto seemed to agree, both of them walking that little bit quicker to the bathroom attached to Izuku’s chambers. They washed themselves down quickly, without ceremony, only until their skin was clean and their dirty clothes discarded. Once Shouto finished scrubbing the last bit of his skin, Izuku was crowding into his space, kissing him slowly. Shouto melted into his touch, hands coming to cup Izuku’s face tenderly. Izuku mewled at the contact, ever so slowly backing Shouto towards the bed. With a firm push, Shouto landed on his back, eyes raking over Izuku’s form. Izuku felt a flush spreading as far as his collarbones but he did his best to ignore it.

“Izuku, come here,” Shouto requested and with a command like that, how could he refuse?

Izuku climbed on top of Shouto, searing their lips together once more even as his hands began to wander. Shouto’s were no different, tracing his sides before dancing up his spine. Izuku arched into the touch, forehead thudding against Shouto’s shoulder. He practically whined when Shouto’s fingers reached just below his tailbone.

“You make the most beautiful sounds,” Shouto said in awe. He pulled Izuku closer, both of them hissing when their lengths made contact.

Shouto,” Izuku gasped, nipping at his collarbones until Shouto put a hand in the centre of his chest, pushing him back.

“I...I have never done this,” he admitted.

“Me neither,” Izuku murmured, nuzzling his cheek reassuringly. “But I know enough to fill the gaps.”

“And how do you know this?” Shouto asked, expression pinched.

“Servants talk,” Izuku replied breezily, getting to his feet and finding a vial of oil. “Plus, I have heard enough from Kacchan.”

He hadn’t, but it was enough to make Shouto’s nose scrunch up. “Izuku, as much of a friend of yours as he is, I do not need to picture him with Eijirou. That would surely ruin the mood.”

“So there is a mood,” Izuku surmised, returning and kneeling between Shouto’s legs. “Will you allow me this?”

“I would allow you anything,” Shouto answered, Izuku’s heart skipping a beat.

“You would let a servant’s son take you?”

“No,” Shouto answered, locking gazes with him. “But I would permit Izuku to; not as a servant, not as a prince, but as himself.”

Izuku’s smile wobbled traitorously, Shouto holding out his hand. Izuku latched onto it. He let Shouto pull him down into a kiss, kissing him until he was dizzy and all he could think of was Shouto’s taste on his tongue. He could feel the moment Shouto grew impatient though, a knee knocking against his waist, his hips canting up ever so slightly.

“I’m here,” Izuku breathed against his lips. “Let me?”

“Of course.”

It was so open, so honest. Izuku wasted no time, tipping some oil into his hands before starting to meticulously work Shouto open. His free hand worked Shouto’s length, bringing him right to the edge before backing away. He could feel Shouto quivering under him, tensing when he added a third finger before suddenly gasping. Izuku shushed him quickly, dotting his face with kisses until Shouto’s breath rightened.

“I take it that was good?” he asked.

“That...Izuku, that was…”

Izuku grinned, repeating the gesture and laughing at the pout it got him. Shouto sighed in exasperation but Izuku could see the light in his eyes, the smile behind them. Kissing him one last time, Izuku removed his fingers, wiping them on the cloth he had brought over. He hovered, one hand squeezing Shouto’s thigh.

“Again, may I?”

Shouto nodded, Izuku nodding in return before starting to push in. Shouto winced, Izuku doing his best to soothe him with gentle caresses as he slid in further, inch by inch. Soon he was bottomed out, Shouto breathing deeply, eyes blown.

“Shouto?”

Shouto took Izuku’s hand, voice nothing but a croak. “You are inside me Izuku.”

“Yes,” Izuku confirmed, rocking his hips tentatively and watching Shouto’s eyes flutter. “Are you ready for me to move?”

Please.”

Gods, Izuku had never heard Shouto beg before and it did something to him, chest tightening. It also made him powerless to resist, pulling out slowly only to push back in. With each thrust, Shouto’s breath would leave in a rush, his back arching ever so slightly. Izuku knew when he’d found that spot again, Shouto abruptly jerking and moaning far louder than Izuku ever could have imagined. It had his skin burning, Izuku’s hips snapping faster.

“Shouto, I...I am close.”

“As am I. Izuku, please.”

There it was, that ‘please’ again. Izuku kept up his rhythm, a hand coming to stroke Shouto until he came undone. Shouto’s mouth dropped open, silent as he reached his climax. Two thrusts later and Izuku was joining him, pushing in deep and then remaining still as he rode out his high. He was sure Shouto’s name had fallen off his lips and from the debauched look on Shouto’s face, he wasn’t wrong.

“Izuku…” Shouto was reaching for him, cupping his face, smoothing his hair off his forehead. “Now may not be the time but I cannot hold it in any longer...I love you. Izuku, son of Inko, I love you.”

His mother’s name made it all the more special and Izuku collapsed onto Shouto’s chest, tears pricking at his eyes. “You know I love you. Always Shouto.”

Shouto’s hands wound through his hair. “Then let me join you in that. Always Izuku, always.”

 

***

 

The sentiments were not “in the moment” as some would say, for Shouto repeated them again over breakfast. His cheeks were red and his eyes had not met Izuku’s exactly but Izuku understood. He doubted Shouto had ever heard the words from Enji, even more doubted that Shouto had ever said them himself. And if he had, he hadn’t meant them.

A morning bath had done them both good and bad, for while it cleaned them, it also made them both hyper aware that they were naked and that they could, for once, touch. That alone led them back to Izuku’s bed, tumbling under the covers and resuming last night’s activities. Another round had left them sated and falling back into a pleasant slumber.

When Izuku next awoke, it was to a hand shaking his shoulder and Izuku all but shot upright, eyes wide. The largest sense of relief flowed through him when he saw it was only Hitoshi. Still, it didn’t stop him from being embarrassed, caught in such a compromising position.

Hitoshi!” he hissed, voice barely a whisper lest he wake Shouto. “Why are you here? And why did you not knock?” Izuku then frowned. “I locked the door!”

Hitoshi shrugged. “There are ways around it. And I did knock, you simply didn’t hear.”

Izuku groaned, burying his head in his knees. “Then I am sorry. What news have you?”

Hitoshi bopped him on the head. “Stop with your whining. I have brought good news.” He leant forward, lips brushing against Izuku’s ear. “Your mother has gone into labour; your sibling comes now.”

What?!” Izuku cried, and if Shouto had still been asleep, he wasn’t now. Throwing the covers aside, Izuku bolted for his wardrobe, hastily pulling clothes on. “But it’s still so early? Do you think everything is-”

“Izuku, she is but two weeks early,” Hitoshi droned. “That can be quite normal. Go now and soothe yourself. Your father is expecting you.”

Izuku nodded, freezing at the door before dashing back and kissing Shouto soundly. “Join me when you can?”

Shouto nodded before, “...I have no clothes.”

Izuku slapped his forehead while Hitoshi chuckled. He then sighed at Izuku’s pleading look. “Fine prince, I will fetch him some for you.”

“Thank you!” Izuku gushed, kissing Hitoshi’s cheek before sprinting away.

 

***

 

Arriving at the healer’s ward, Izuku found his father pacing the hall, though he dropped into a chair just as Izuku reached him. “Mama will not let you in?”

Toshinori grimaced. “Izuku my boy, there are some things your mother simply does not want me to see. This is one of them.”

Izuku could agree, though he winced at the pained cry his mother gave from behind the door. “Is there someone she would let in?”

“The healers are in there,” Toshinori assured. “I know Inko did ask for Mitsuki but she is not set to arrive for another two days or so.”

Izuku perked up. “Two days?” At Toshinori’s nod, he leapt back to his feet. “If Uncle Masaru and Aunt Mitsuki are only two days away, they will be close. It shouldn't take me long if I was to use my quirk.”

“Izuku,” Toshinori chided lightly. “I think-...” Inko gave another scream. “Go get her.”

Izuku nodded, using his quirk to bound down the walls and disappear out the castle gates. Pushing himself to the limits with his quirk, it took Izuku less than hour to spot the Bakugou’s mare and cart. His bones ached as he hit the ground but it was worth it, especially when his uncle looked so surprised.

“De-...Izuku! Don’t startle me so!” he exclaimed, a hand on his heart.

Izuku made an apologetic gesture before turning to his aunt. Her eyes were already narrowed. “Inko’s started the party without me, hasn’t she?”

“It doesn’t sound like much of a party,” Izuku deadpanned, Mitsuki roaring with laughter.

“I’m sure it doesn’t!” She jumped from the wagon, murmuring something to Masaru before folding her arms. “Alright then brat, how are you gonna get me there?”

Izuku’s mouth opened and then shut. He hadn’t thought of that. He pondered a moment longer before holding out his arms. “If you permit it, I can carry you.”

Mitsuki pinched his cheek. “I don’t like it but I’m not missing this, you hear?”

Izuku nodded, scooping her up and bidding farewell to Masaru before rocketing back the way he had come. It was a little slower with the extra weight but Izuku still made good time. He wagered it took him no more than two hours to complete the round trip, though every muscle creaked and burnt. Mitsuki’s hand threaded through his hair. “You did good kid. Thank you.”

Izuku offered a shaky smile, dropping back down next to his father as Mitsuki barged her way in. There were shouts of complaint and alarm but what Izuku heard most was the relief in his mother’s voice. Mitsuki had been there before, with him, as Inko had been there with her for Katsuki. Of course they wanted each other’s company. Toshinori’s hand settled between his shoulder blades and Izuku whined at the touch, eyes clenching shut.

“Izuku?” Toshinori demanded, worry flooding his voice.

“I am...fine,” he managed through gritted teeth, working through the pain until it didn’t feel as though his muscles were going to burst at any given time.

“Izuku?”

The voice was new, Izuku’s head snapping up to find Shouto there. His mouth curved up into a smile before he knew it, Shouto taking a seat next to him. He tutted at the sweat on Izuku brow and passed him a handkerchief, Izuku thanking him quietly.

“King Shouto has come down more than once to check on your mother,” Toshinori told him.

“Ah,” Izuku said, sending Shouto a helpless look. “Sorry. I asked you to come and then disappeared without sending word.”

Shouto just shook his head. “All Might informed me of your errand. I’m sure your mother appreciates your effort.”

Izuku squeezed his hand, head flopping onto Shouto’s as exhaustion set in. He felt Shouto stiffen, but didn’t understand the reason why until his father spoke.

“I hope you know, Young Shouto, that Izuku is my greatest treasure.”

Papa,” Izuku complained, wearily swatting at him. “Stop.”

“I am simply informing him!” Toshinori defended.

Izuku waved him away. “You do not need to. He has already heard. From many people.”

“I am sure he has. But it is my duty, as a father.”

“If it helps,” Shouto offered. “It appears we have something in common. As Izuku is also my greatest treasure.”

Izuku couldn’t help the shake in his shoulders, the sniff, even as one of Shouto’s hands came to rub his back soothingly. He could tell his father was smiling, even without looking. “Good answer Young Shouto. Good answer indeed.”

 

***

 

It was the early hours of the morning when the door finally opened. Izuku had attempted to send Shouto away many times but he insisted on staying. He left at random intervals to find someone who could bring them all food but otherwise, he had stayed. Izuku had spent a good portion of the afternoon asleep on his shoulder, Shouto immersed in a book Hitoshi had left with his clothes, apparently having guessed Shouto’s intentions and knowing he’d be there for awhile.

Now though, Izuku was bouncing to his feet, Toshinori already at the door. Mitsuki was laughing, guiding him in. Izuku frowned when Shouto stopped in the doorway. “Shouto, you are welcome. You did not wait all this time to leave now.”

Still, Shouto shook his head. “I will be here,” he promised. “Even I know this is a family affair.”

“You will not leave without me?”

He kissed his cheek. “I will not Izuku. Now go. I am within earshot and everything.”

That earnt him a poked out tongue but then Izuku was weaving his way through the room until he reached his mother’s side. Her eyes were darkened with bags and she was paler but her smile was wide as she held a wrapped bundle close to her chest. She waved Izuku over fondly, Izuku shaking when he was given the bundle himself, eyes meeting eyes still scrunched and unfocused.

“They’re beautiful Mama,” he whispered, already tearing up.

His parents laughed, Inko wiping away his tears even as she was starting to cry herself. “He’s a boy, Izuku. You have a younger brother.”

Izuku didn’t bother trying not to cry then, just hugged his brother that little bit tighter. “Mama, Papa, I love him.”

“I’m sure you do my boy,” Toshinori said, reaching across to cup his shoulder. “We all do son.” Toshinori then turned to one of the servants at the door. “Inform Yamada that tomorrow, at dawn, he is to announce the arrival of Prince Kento, son of Toshinori and Inko, brother of Crown Prince Izuku.”

“Kento,” Izuku whispered. “I think, Kento, you will enjoy being part of our family. We are certainly excited to have you.”

He handed his brother back as he started to grizzle, giving his parents some time alone. Shouto linked their arms, leading him through the palace. He tapped Izuku’s nose lightly. “I see you are already besotted.”

Izuku grinned. “I should think so. However, it is you I love, King Shouto of Endeavour.”

Shouto’s grip on his arm tightened. There was no doubt in Izuku’s mind now. He and Shouto, they would be just fine.

 

***