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Beast Among Men

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A blinding white dragon soars over the tops of a forestry of mountainsides. Only a lone tower can be seen in the expanse of trees below.

 

Flying was a symphony of constant static; noise incomprehensible aside from the thunderous flap of leathery wings. Velocity and speed held no meaning where the sky was endless, where cloud formations scattered. His mouth opened but he couldn’t hear his own breath. His heart pounded but the sensation was muffled from the pull of air shrieking against his flank.

He travelled loud.

Which shouldn’t make sense, he knew. He didn’t know how he knew, but that was the way most of his knowledge went. There was a lot of things he knew without knowing.

He knew the searing pull of muscles when trying to heave a fallen log – yet his claws could flick a grown tree without an ounce of resistance. It didn’t make sense.

He knew the flinch of an undeserved scolding and punch in the gut – yet no creature had a fist large enough to poke at his sternum. It didn’t make sense.

Despite the useless facts that constructed his muscle memory, he had no idea what he was; the only information that crowded his brain was that he was not what he was supposed to be, and his strongest impulsive desire was not his own.

Find Him. Kill Him.

All Might .

That part didn’t make sense either – the desire thing. He had urges to feed and to rest, but that seemed right for some reason. He could find shelter, he could kill his prey. But this All Might his brain crowed at him as regularly as a heartbeat didn’t equate to what he actually needed to do. Like eat , and sleep , and get his brain to shut up chanting All Might without end -

-which is how he found himself flying at incomprehensible speeds, drowning out what involuntary internal monologue-ing he could while hypnotised by his vision pooling into useless streaks of light.

He briefly wondered if he was at a suitable height to be flying as blind as he was, not realising he considered the possibility too late until his stomach clipped on the tips of forest trees and sent him careening into the woodlands below. The screeching wind grinded into wood splintering against muscular hide, branches scratching and tearing into leather skin and still-open wings rolling under his body. He grinded to a sudden halt, blinking out of his daze.

He had crashed.

That was a first.

The distant cries of scattering birds accompanied the crumble of twigs and toppling trees, and his pain began to throb in sync with his ever-chanting mind. He blinked at the debris that rose past his muzzle, trying to find himself in the remains of shredded wood. He attempted to roll off from his side but let out a bellowing hiss at the unwanted tug of his wing trapped underneath him.

He had never been on his side before. His body, broad yet lithe, only seemed suited for the skies. On the ground he felt clunky and stiff. He had never considered rolling in his sleep before, and he was glad he hadn’t tried until now; the stiff frame of his wing protruding and invasive under the space of his ribs.

It hurt, a surprising amount.

Moving only pulled at the trapped muscle of his wing, giving a sensation similar to someone trying to snap his shoulder out of place. But that couldn’t be right – no creature was large enough to do that to him – yet the familiar circumstances made him hesitate. It was a striking pain he didn’t want to experience again.

It took a bit of work, but after some cautious flailing, he managed to snake his legs underneath himself, lifting his weight from his wing. He may have been strong but he was heavy, and his limbs quivered at the strain until he righted himself. He dragged his wing to his side before collapsing to the ground, the splintering forestry floor nothing more than stiff carpentry against his stomach.

Leering over his shoulder, he peeked at his crushed wing. The taut skin bled red from various gashes, open wounds littered in wood and greenery, but the sting was nothing compared to the wiry bone of his wing. He couldn’t fold it along his back to meet its parallel, and each movement of it skimming across the ground sent fiery sparks of agony trembling through his spine.

There was the passing thought of simply resting where he was for the remainder of the day, but the steady beat of Find – Kill – All Might reminded him that well-earned sleep didn’t come easy.

When his vision finally stopped spinning he took the opportunity to try and evaluate his surroundings. From where he had crashed he could barely see over the tops of the tree canopies that rose with the slope of terrain of some form of mountainside. Craning his head, he spotted the overgrown remains of a stone tower, almost like a decoration unkempt by plants that encased it. Despite it being slightly taller than the treeline, the stone blended naturally into the green, almost as if it was trying to be hidden. But he had found it.

He needed to get to it.

Wait , he shook his head, catching himself. Why would he need to do that? It didn’t have any noticeable purpose, but something told him he should .

He didn’t have a reason not to, right?

He was picking himself off the ground before he could find a reason to disagree, and found himself stumbling towards the landmark. His likely-broken wing remained anchored to the ground, splitting the dirt like a rake and sending unruly fits of pain through his body. He wasn’t going to last long, travelling like this.

There was only so far he could shuffle across the ground before the trees became too dense to pass, and the tower remained enclosed to a trail that he couldn’t manoeuvre through.

Could he ice a path? Not likely . He could freeze the tops of the trees but how easy would they shatter under his weight? He couldn’t risk jarring his wing further.

Find All Might , his head throbbed.

Tower , something smaller suggested.

Why should I , he wanted to scream. Instead his breath billowed out a cloud of permafrost, leaves stiffening like knives around his muzzle.

Get to the tower . Why?

All Might .

He closed his eyes, lowering his head to his foreclaws. The pounding was getting louder, stealing his breath from him.

Why did he need to get to the tower again?

He had to. But why ?

All Might? Was All Might in the tower? The throbbing pulsated into one amalgamation of thought. His wing throbbed. No, his body did. Was it his heart? His head?

All Might. But why!?

He was heavy. So heavy.

Find him.

Kill him.

All Might.

 


 

Within the deafening beating of heart and pain and chanting, something new whispered its way into his hearing. Voices, not internal, but physical in the same way he could hear the ground crunch under his feet. He hadn’t heard voices aside from those inside his head for such a long time. He had always been alone. That couldn’t be true , but it must be, for he couldn’t recall ever being with anyone else.

It was difficult to open his eyes when he was never aware of closing them, his vision beginning to clear from the searing white of his enclosed mind space. It throbbed in a new way, merging with the tempo of new voices he could make out.

“-our duty to investigate what could have caused such devastation within these grounds. What if it made it to the next village? People’s lives could be at stake!”

He tilted his head to the side, intrigued. Whatever was talking wasn’t in sight yet, but he could hear them. Clearly . The insistent beating in his chest quickened, outpacing the chanting. A language he could understand, nothing like the cries of birds and beasts he was used to.

“We know Iida, but there’s something really wrong on this mountain. I don’t know how to put it, but it feels like a large mass of magic seeping into the earth. I think it might be attracting things here.”

A softer voice, much higher in tone, but still easily recognisable in language. Had his kind found him? Was he no longer alone? Please find me , he tried to say. His throat gargled rapturous and encouraging, hoping they could hear him.

The frozen leaves around him shimmered with his breath, rattling in an echo of chimes. Silhouettes barely visible in the foreground stumbled in the tree’s shadows.

He could see… something. They were very small.

“W-what was that!?”

“Watch your step – are you okay?”

“How did you not flinch from that!? That was-was… Oh Gods …”

Before him stood three tiny figures. They didn’t break past the shadow of the treeline, but if he listened hard enough he could hear them quivering within their clothes. He felt ice form in his gut. He was confused. Why could he understand things so small? He was expecting company from something that could have answered what and who he was. His nostrils stung from frost settling from his breath.

“O-okay, n-nobody move,” another voice whispered, “no loud noises, no sudden movements. We need to b-back out nice and slow.”

The largest of the three stepped back, and if it was a tender step, it made no effect to muffle the sound of his armour clattering with his movements. The smallest of the group bore a crooked hat on their head, and instead of following the others, they took a step out of the trees overcast towards him. Their face was obscured by the giant hat, but he could make out the worn ruddy colour of their boots.

Oh ! Wait – wait guys! It’s stuck, I think,” she spoke low, but hurried, leaning back to grab the arm of another who was trying to leave, “this is it; what crushed all those trees over there!”

She took a few shy steps towards him, he watched them with disdain, unsure at their intentions but curious enough to see how it played out. Strangely enough, their chatter was sharpening his focus away from the symphony of All Might , and he wanted to revel in the feeling of clarity.

The armoured one spoke up. “If this is what caused all that damage, we certainly shouldn’t be entertaining the thought of approaching it Uraraka. We should reform after discussing a plan to relocate it before disturbing it further!”

“No no, you’re missing the point,” Uraraka shook her head softly, gesturing to him. “-the seeping magic in the ground, it’s luring creatures in and trapping them here. It’s like a binding spell. And–and dragon’s don’t just crash into the forest. The magic must be luring them into the area until they can’t leave.”

He exhaled noisily, almost insulted. He was no pawn to magic. He wasn’t lured in by anything.

All Might , his brain itched.

Shut up .

The group flinched at his breath, before their voices slowly picked up again. This time it was the one dressed in green, who bravened some shy steps closer to Uraraka.

“It makes sense. Look at it, it’s absolutely drained. Not only is the natural abundance of magic attracting creatures, but there must be something sapping them of their strength too. It’s like one big trap for anything pertaining to magic,” he faced Uraraka. “I mean, we came here because you could feel the magic here right? It could very well attempt to trap you next. We could search the area and try to find the source and remove it.”

The armoured one hummed loudly. “Perhaps you both have a point; after all, if a binding spell is cast here, they’re likely storing the magic for other intentions. Very well, we shall scout the area and interfere with whoever’s responsible for this.”

Almost as if unfazed at the sheer size of him, the new group began to mutter an active plan for whatever it was they were doing. He wasn’t quite so sure himself, but he attempted to keep up. An artefact, they theorised. It almost sounded nonsensical. He wasn’t attracted to objects, unless the All Might he was plagued by was a form of artefact, but even if it was he would have no idea how to find it. He had flown here on a foolish escapade to drown out the chanting, the whole situation could have only been played out by chance.

But he was ridiculously tired, despite being well fed before he had crashed. And there was a composition of static pulses from places from not only his head, combining into something too overwhelming to fight. But what could serve as the source?

All Might? No . His neck quivered as he strained to raise his head from the ground, ignorant towards the startled gasps and flurry of people fleeing at his movement. From his position he could angle his head high enough to see the top of the unkempt tower that had urged him earlier without success.

That had to be it.

He glanced back down at the party, unimpressed at the glint of an unsheathed sword in the hands of the armoured one. They had moved a fair distance away however, Uraraka peeked out from behind a tree, her staff held out ahead of her. The other one stood right beside her, seemingly unarmed.

Could they see the tower? Unlikely. He could only identify it by its roof, the rest of its girth swallowed in green. It probably blended right into the forestry from the floor.

He hoped he was correct with this. His foreleg uncurled from under his body, and he extended it to the direction of the tower, keeping his eyes focused on the group of wary people. There was a pause of silent trepidation, before the green one stepped in front of Uraraka, placing a reassuring hand on the armoured one’s shoulder.

“W-wait, I think it’s trying to help us. Iida, withdraw your sword for a moment.”

Iida started, “But Midoriya-“

Midoriya’s hand squeezed a little harder on his shoulder plate. “Trust me here, okay?”

Iida’s eyes flitted in conflict, before he nodded stiffly, sheathing his blade. Uraraka followed suit, grabbing onto Iida’s arm as Midoriya faced him again.

“W-well? Are you? T-trying to help us, I mean,” Midoriya asked him, taking tentative steps towards his fallen body. He slowly lowered his head back to the ground, his neck stretched out to face the group. Midoriya seemed skittish but continued forward, moving right up to his snout, struggling to focus on one of his eyes. He pulled some sort of face at his left, before focusing on his right.

He let out a gruff affirmation, which rattled frost around them and made everybody flinch again. It was short lived however, as Midoriya’s eyes widened with curiosity. “O-oh, you’re an ice dragon! That’s strange… N-not that it’s bad or anything, presuming you can understand us, I mean, we just don’t expect to see dragons in general and often they’re referred to as creatures born from fire, so-“

“Deku,” Uraraka held a hand over her mouth, struggling to hold back her giggles. “-you’re muttering to a dragon!”

Midoriya (Deku? A forename perhaps?) looked abash, rubbing the back of his head. “Ahah, s-sorry about that.”

He snorted a plume of frost at him, and Midoriya blinked dazedly at the icy tendrils that clung to the tips of his hair. “W- woah , c-cold. Uhm, right anyways! You’re obviously intelligent, a-and are at least willing to work with us right? S-so, if you can help us, we can help free you! Is that okay with you?”

Obviously , he wanted to reply. But another exhale would probably freeze him to the spot, so instead he thumped his outstretched limb impatiently against the ground. Iida’s arm reached instinctively for his sword, then he paused, cocking his head.

“Oh! Midoriya, he’s pointing ! Maybe he can sense the artefact’s location.”

Midoriya followed the length of his limb, gazing off into the treeline. He gave an affirmative nod. “Mhm, so it seems. Come on then, let’s go break the spell! Don’t worry Ice Dragon, you’ll be freed soon, so just wait for us!”

He blinked slowly as he watched the group progress, Uraraka offered him a little wave before she caught up with the others.

The moment they began to leave, a crescendo of All Might pressed suddenly at the front of his head, the back of his eyes - and he could barely restrain a hiss. It was too sudden, why was it back as soon as they had left?

He felt rather than heard the low rumble that bellowed from his throat, his poor attempt to cry out please come back soon, I don’t want to be alone again .

But they were gone from sight, and he was left squinting uselessly at the incessant noise of his own mind, overwhelming him to the point where the environment faded from his grasp.

 


 

He was never sure if it counted as sleeping whenever he lost himself to the noise of his own mind, especially since by the time he could recover he was left as restless as ever. He never knew how long he lost himself, but like a sudden hiccup in time, he was awake.

Disorientated, it was confusing to wake without overwhelming noise reverberating through him like he was used to. Instead, he heard the faint crackle of a fire and soft voices, curling gently around him. It felt foreign, but strangely welcoming.

Still exhausted, he groaned and stretched, only to freeze when he felt a sharp tug as he agitated his wounded wing.

“W-woah- hey , you’re awake!”

Eyelids heavy, he blinked at the three people sitting aside from him, a small fire flickering between them. It was dark out. Although they hadn’t moved from their seats, everybody looked tense, ready to bolt.

He stared at them, unsure as to what to do. They stared back, shoulders stiff. The fire crackled its own conversation.

Hesitantly, Midoriya spoke up.

“We uh, we lifted the spell from the area. I thought you would’ve sensed the magic disperse and leave, but when we came back you wouldn’t wake up.”

Uraraka chimed in. “We’re glad you’re okay now! We didn’t want to just – leave you here.”

Her breath billowed into a cloud of white, and he realised that the whole clearing was still frozen. The floor glittered against the fire’s light, and he swallowed guiltily. They must have been freezing.

Thank you , he wished he could say.

He shuffled up onto his feet, one wing folded neatly down his back, the other stiff and swelling in throbbing tension. Midoriya fiddled with the contents of his bag, while Uraraka smiled.

“Happy trails!” She called, offering a wave once again.

Iida nodded beside her. “It was a pleasure to meet a dragon, despite the circumstances.”

He took care with stepping around them. Midoriya hastily pulled out a book with quivering hands, attempting to find an empty page.

“W-wait, I didn’t – I was supposed to – I should have taken notes!” He covered his face with the book, groaning miserably. Uraraka stifled a chuckle and patted his shoulder sympathetically.

“Deku, be polite and say goodbye.”

Oh , they thought he was -. He wiggled his injured wing for emphasis, but they didn’t seem to notice. Instead, Midoriya closed the book in resignation. “Y-yeah, of course. Happy travels… I just wish I had more time to learn about you.”

The lack of maelstrom wind indicating take off had Midoriya peeking behind him uncertainly, only to screech when he was launched several inches off the ground when he collapsed around his company. Three bewildered faces peered up at him, and he curled his tail closer around them, tucking in his head and minding his wing.

The frozen earth began to condense rapidly, and Uraraka let out a startled yelp. “W-warm!”

Staring perplexed at the leathery hide around him, Midoriya was left with a wavering smile, shakily re-opening his book.

“I-I guess I should get started!”

 


 

Yup , that’s a busted wing alright,” Uraraka patted his flank sympathetically, lowering herself back to the ground with a cast of magic.

The following morning was filled with bright skies and humid winds, leaving him grimacing at his newly diagnosed limb that buffeted in the gales. Below him, Midoriya was clearing their dead fireplace. Ash scattered into the air and left soot stains across his flank.

“Can we really just leave him though?” Midoriya asked, shielding his eyes from stray ash blowing out from under his boots. “Will he be able to eat while grounded? Dragons aren’t adapted for hunting from the ground. We’ve already started helping him, so why should we stop here?”

Iida took his time sharpening his sword from beside them. “We have sworn a duty to aid this creature. It would be disrespectful to back out of our word now.”

Uraraka huffed, swinging her staff overhead. “Now you’re both putting words in my mouth! I never said we should leave him, but how are we meant to feed him? How much does he even eat? He’s not a pet, we can’t just name him and carry him in our back pocket. He probably has some… Godly destiny that dragons have sometimes! I dunno !”

Iida hummed. “Then surely we could assist him in his journey home, since he cannot fly off by himself.”

We haven’t named him !” Midoriya yelped instead, dashing for his backpack.

Deku no – Okay Iida you have a point, but ,” Uraraka quickly bee-lined for Deku, bonking him softly on the head with her staff. “-Deku we can’t name him! You of all people should know the consequences of binding names. Besides, he probably already has one, right?” She looked up hopefully at the dragon’s maw.

He stared at her figure for a moment, contemplating. Did he have a name ? He should have one, but it was lost on him for the meantime. He slowly swayed his head, Uraraka drooping at the universal gesture for ‘ no’ .

What ! How do you not have a name?”

Iida sheathed his sword, walking towards their supplies. “To be fair we don’t know dragon etiquette. Maybe dragons have no need for a concept like names.”

Midoriya peeked behind his notebook, this was becoming a signature look for him. “But for the sake of our group, he should have something we can refer him to!”

“You are so attached to him already,” Uraraka sighed, giving up.

He tilted his head, watching his new companions go about their activities. They had currently been addressing him by many new terms, although all of them surrounded the word ‘dragon’, which seemed… Wrong , for some reason. Like the rest of his knowledge, he couldn’t recollect where he had heard of the term before, and couldn’t picture what a dragon should be, but he knew he shouldn’t be one.

Why was that?

A weight against his folded forelegs had him glance down at Midoriya’s tufty crown, who was leaning against him as he flicked through his tome. He must carry a lot because it looked different from the one he had the night previous, when he was muttering so passionately about how he thought the dragon worked. For the first time ever in his recent memory, he had fallen asleep willingly , and not through losing his senses from drowning in his internal noise.

There had been a brief period when he awoke that his limbs were buzzing from the silence, leaving him floundering for a grip back into reality just long enough to startle the group into waking up. As soon as they started talking again, he could feel himself stabilising.

He was missing something important. But he needed to grasp onto what he could, if he could keep himself from going under. For now, these new people could be his life raft.

“Okay! Here’s some ideas!” Midoriya announced, seemingly found what he was looking for. The dragon lowered himself so that the curve of his maw brushed against Midoriya’s shoulder, who made a startled “ eep !” at the contact. He chuckled nervously, his shoulders still tense, and it was then that the dragon realised that maybe they weren’t as comfortable with him as he decided he could be with them. He reluctantly moved his head away, resting it on the ground instead. Midoriya coughed into his hand and focused back onto his book.

“E-erm, so I thought we could be polite and give him a name that symbolises his draconic nature? I have a couple of rune scripts recorded that were translated from dragon literature, although they’re not the best of translations b-but their language is much more complex than ours, so I can only work with what I have, s-so hopefully this isn’t an impeachment or anything-“

The recently dubbed ‘Ice Dragon’ listened offhandedly, not willing to give a response to knowledge he didn’t have access to himself. He side-eyed his company, who floundered at the lack of response.

“You’re trying your best, Midoriya,” Iida sympathised, tucking away his sword and collecting the rest of his gear. “He doesn’t seem to be against the situation at any rate. Let’s hear these terminologies and see if he’s alright with them.”

“R-right,” Midoriya nodded, glancing back at the paper. “Okay, so the most common terminology used in draconic literature refers to directions and warnings. Dragons don’t so much as write books as they leave warnings, so, uhm.  How about Hayate?”

The dragon made no attempt to move, so Midoriya continued, “Uhm, i-it refers to the sound of the wind, but uhm, I guess not. I’ll just continue. Er.”

He turned a few pages hurriedly, reading a few more words that meant nothing to him.

“Kenta? N-no luck huh? Errm, Masaru? No… Noberu?”

“Why not be more literal?” Iida asked. “Are there any terms towards ice?”

Midoriya hummed, “There’s Rin, which means cold a-and severe, or Yukio? A warning of snow…”

Not even a blink. Midoriya sighed, flicking to the next page.

“… Shou ?”

His horned head snapped back as if struck by whiplash. That was – almost right. It was like a bone had set correctly in his body – it fit, but just barely. He was hardly listening to Midoriya continue to explain the language.

“I-it’s often used as a warning for busy skies, indicating a flight zone, since it means to glide or soar.”

Shou yelped, surprising himself at the sound he made. The gang were surprised too, Midoriya ducked behind Uraraka while she tripped over him in an attempt to run the other direction. Iida had his hand on his sheathe but was otherwise left staring at his friends groaning on the floor.

“Well that was an… Odd hiccup,” Iida muttered, offering his hands to the fallen duo and pulling them up simultaneously. “I do believe we found ourselves a name, however.”

Uraraka laughed nervously, glancing up at Shou, who picked himself onto his feet and loomed over at them, eyes wide. She rubbed the back of her neck.

“Deku, only you could get away with naming a dragon and making it squeak.”

“I-I didn’t mean to!” He stuttered, brushing the dust off of his knees. “B-but, if Shou’s what he likes, then that’s what we’ll go with!”

His broken wing was still limp and dragging against the floor as he moved, but Shou stretched the other with one resounding flap. The clearing buffeted from the impact, and for a moment, Shou felt like things were starting to work out for him.

Iida, the only one who remained standing from the gust of wind, huffed in amusement. “You know, I think it suits him.”