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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.

 

***