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Kogane no Kami

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The grey hand squeezes his neck, and Shouta struggles uselessly against the demon’s grip. He can hear little- his head is ringing, his heart is pounding inside his ears, there is blood filling them. The demon’s words are muffled, and all he can do is prepare for impact- prepare for his face to hit against the cold, mossy stone again. From here, even with his head being lifted up like a cub in a mother bear’s mouth, even with his vision blurring around the edges, he can see the blood on the rock.

But he does not distract himself with this- nor with the talon-like nails digging into his throat, nor with the pain spreading throughout his entire body. Not even the sound of Shigaraki Tomura’s shivering voice beside his ear, his smell of death.

No- all he can focus on is the sight of his students.

“Go,” is all he manages. He can feel the blood run from his mouth as he speaks, tastes the metallic tang.

Wide eyes shine as they look back at him. They are all still so young. They may be samurai in training, but they are all still children and the thought turns his heart over in his wheezing chest. They stand and grimace and cry and shout at Shigaraki to stop, because children are the bravest, most foolish of them all.

He has fought demons before. This is no ordinary demon.

Strong, kind Iida does as he is told. He is pulling Midoriya and Bakugo back as best he can, and Tsuyu is trying to usher them into the safety of the forest, tear filled eyes fixed on Shouta. He does not want to know how he looks right now. They are all watching him, not Shigaraki, but him. It is a testament to how close to death he is, that they are more frightened by the sight of their sensei right now than they are by the demon clutching him by the throat.

“Go.”

Shigaraki hums, mellifluous and sickening.

“Save your students, I have no interest in them,” Shigaraki simpers. “My quarrel is with you, Eraserhead. You and the scourge of heroes with your sick, twisted morals plaguing this land. I want to destroy all of you pathetic samurai, show how fragile your sense of justice really is.”

They aren’t leaving. Why aren’t they leaving? They cannot fight Shigaraki without risking their lives and Shouta’s. But they do not run. Why don’t they run-

“I suppose I could kill them all, too,” he continues casually, and the words ring in his ears louder than the sound of his scrambled brain. “Wipe out the next generation. But this is not the time for that battle.”

The grip of his fingers loosens slightly, cold air rushes into his lungs. For blissful moment, the clean smell of the forest and dewy earth washes away the taste of blood. It does not last long. He knows that he will die by Shigaraki’s hand, and there is no reason that the time should not be now. And despite the situation- despite the fear for his students- he feels entirely still. The world feels still. The world feels quiet, despite all the noise in his head and coming from his students and the demons surrounding him. All the life around him that is neither human nor demon is peaceful. The distant waterfall continues to gurgle and churn, the bamboo rustles not far off from where is he is being held, and he swears he can hear it all, feel it all. There are insects beneath his knees, there are birds above him hunting and Mount Tanigawa looms over them unfazed. The rest of the world will go on without him, the sun will always rise even without him there to watch it. He has always taken a comfort in the comparative meaningless of his own life.

Right now, it feels perfectly alright that he should die here, if it means that everything else will continue.

Shigaraki consults with another demon out of Shouta’s vision. His hand tightens momentarily, and Shouta recognises the frustration in the gesture. Shigaraki sighs. “Perhaps it is not time for this battle, either.”

Those words confuse his muddled brain, and once again, he cannot breathe. Shouta’s students attempt to put up one last fight, he can see it in their eyes. It is the last thing he sees; their angry and frightened stares, mouths opened in shouts he cannot hear, katana too big for them, they are too young too young-

Mount Tanigawa provides a backdrop for this final scene and his mind quietens. He cannot see the sun, it is setting behind the peak of the mountain.

He wishes. He wishes he could see the sun one last time. He will miss the heat of it stroking his face. He’s not ready to-

 

 

Two months later

The god appears for the first time one morning in early spring, before the cherry-blossoms have bloomed and before the mist has cleared.

Shouta does not sleep at this time of day. Whilst his students rest in the rooms down the corridor from his, peaceful and possibly already hungry from their early dinner the night before, Shouta does not. He hasn’t slept a full night for as long as he’s been alive.

It is mornings like these that remind him why he isn’t resentful of his insomnia. It is quiet enough for him to hear the steady rise and fall of his breaths, the drip of dew dropping from the wooden rafters above his head. There is a damp circle on the veranda, by his feet, where the drops have landed consistently throughout the morning. The mist is still clearing, rolling back towards the river that it came from. It hangs over the distant forest floor, over the pathway leading up to Yuuei samurai school. The sky is still hazy, but it will soon reveal itself to be a purplish blue that one can only see on mornings like these.

Shouta closes his eyes, focuses on the sounds of his breath, the gentle drip, waits for the bird song to erupt from the trees, as it always does.

He has sat like this every morning for as long as he can remember. He did not always live at the samurai school, of course. As a boy, he was brought up by farmers, a kind but stern, hardworking family who took him in as a baby. As far as he was- and still is- concerned, they are his family. They did not question his sleeplessness, were happy to have an early riser to help with the harvest. Before even they rose, he would sit and watch the wind blow across the rice paddies, flattening and bouncing back up like some great hand was stroking them. During the hot afternoons, he would sleep since he could not at night.

For this, at least, he has always been considered strange. And lazy.

Now he is here. Much has happened in between his fifteenth year of manhood, when he left the farm, and today. A lot has changed in the man who now teaches at Yuuei. Chiefly, he became famous hero. Subsequently, he retreated from the public eye. Became a teacher. Took his students to a training camp in the mountains, almost died at Shigaraki’s grasp, and the demon had disappeared. He is out there somewhere, right now.

He absent-mindedly lets one hand rise from his cup of tea, fingers stroking the scar on his cheek.

His body aches, and it feels older than, in reality, it truly is. His eyes sting with dryness, and his bones ache with years of damage. He is thirty one, but he feels one hundred. Perhaps he should have stayed a farmer. Farmers seem to live forever. Live a simple life, without death and immortal enemies. He is tired. He has always been tired, of course- those dark rings beneath his eyes are perpetual. But so much has happened these past few years. Too much.

His students have seen too much. The world is changing.

What has remained consistent, comfortingly reliable, is his early rise every morning. Before anyone else, before even the farmers and servants open their eyes, when the sky is still dark. Since forever, he has waited for the first birdsong, the first ray of light to wink over the trees. To see the gold sun and green grass burst to life, first thing in the morning.

Quietly, secretly, he has always considered that that moment where the sun appears and the birds begin to chant shows the presence of a god. He is not a religious man, but even now, as he sips his tea from the cup in his cool hands, he believes that that moment of the world coming to life is something singularly divine.

That is why he is not surprised when he sees the god emerge from the forest, step foot into his world at the exact moment the sun peeks over the trees and the birds start to sing.

Shouta doesn’t flinch or tense. Somehow, seeing this shining, golden human approach feels no different to watching the sun rise, the same sun he has watched his whole life.

The presence is neither man nor woman, is drenched in sunbeams; every time Shouta thinks he has caught sight of them, they seem to evade him like a mirage, or something too bright to instinctively look at. But in his periphery, he knows that this is almost a human form.

Shouta closes his eyes, and lets the presence approach, as he knows they are- even if he cannot hear their footsteps in the soft, wet grass.

The song birds sing loudly, brightly and excitedly, until they suddenly, unsettlingly pause, like an interruption to a vivid conversation. Shouta opens his eyes.

Their eyes are as green as those rice paddies he grew up harvesting, as bright and fierce and keen as bird song, their hair as golden as the sun itself. It drapes like a shiraito waterfall over their shoulders. The way they stand is confident and slightly overbearing, looming over him, but in no threatening way- feet spread wide, planted on the ground beneath them, hands on hips and poised before Shouta, who remains perched cross legged on the veranda. There is a grin on their lips, a smile so wide that Shouta is certain it will keep going around the back of their head, and the god will burst out of their human form. They smile at him like they are sharing an inside joke with an old friend.

“You don’t seem scared.”

This seems to please them, because they continue to grin at Shouta, head tilted slightly, intrigued.

Shouta places his cup of tea beside him on the veranda, where it continues to steam ever so slightly, cooling in the early spring air. He finally looks at them more directly. They are not so bright now, their image doesn’t slip away from his sight like it did before; they have settled into the dull, simple dimensions of the human world. Their skin is pale, eyes intelligent and piercing, simmering with things that Shouta doesn’t know. They wear a simple, green yukata; it is too cold to be wearing one on a day like this, and yet that is what they have manifested themselves wearing. Their hair still shines, and he doubts that will ever fade, regardless of how long they stand there in front of his veranda.

“Do I have any reason to be afraid?”

That smile does not falter. “No.”

Shouta nods slightly to himself. And he isn’t scared. He truly doesn’t believe there is any reason to be. This person feels as familiar to him as the air he breathes. And yet he would be a fool to not see the power that has been poured into this fragile, mortal form. To not see the omniscience in their gaze, to ignore the buzz of their energy as they stand there, poised before him as if ready to be assessed, as if to say, ‘well, what do you think?’. Powerful yet childlike. Ancient, timeless, and yet youthful. This god gives off a strange air, is confusing and almost too bright to look at, even now.

No, Shouta considers, I am not frightened, but maybe I should be.

Their gazes are fixed upon each other, neither one’s eye-contact breaking. They silently evaluate each other. The newcomer’s gaze cannot be described as challenging, but there is an intensity, an expectancy perhaps that makes Shouta feel vulnerable. And, judging by what people have told him about his general demeanour, he probably looks disgruntled. It is not his intention, it never is- especially now, as he looks at the person before him. It is like finally meeting someone that he has been told about his whole life, heard stories of since childhood.

And for that, at least, he deserves his respect.

Shouta does what he has seldom done before, carefully slipping off the veranda onto the ground, and bowing low.

The god does not let him, catches him with an index finger beneath his stubbled chin.

The sudden contact makes his breath freeze in his chest. Their skin is warm, radiant even with this small touch. He stands up straight, following the guidance of the god’s hand.

Their huge smile has softened, though it still plays on their lips. The look in their eyes is not commanding; it is not reverent; it is somehow both at once.

“You bow to no one,” they say simply.

Shouta’s breath does not come.

“You speak as if you know me,” he whispers.

That soft expression contorts into something so extraordinarily human, it takes him back. A playful pout on his lips, a mock-hurt frown. “I’ve known you your whole life, Aizawa Shouta.”

And that just confirms it; this truly is a sun god. A god of the morning sunrise. The one reliable presence in his life.

The god’s finger finally drops from Shouta’s chin. He looks back at them, feels simultaneously relaxed and shaken. This person does not scare him. And yet he feels as if this moment is vitally important. As if his life has converged to this one space in time.

“You are a sun god.”

“Of course!” they exclaim, hands confidently planted on their hips. “And I have been watching you every morning for eleven thousand, four hundred and twenty days.”

“Why?”

His bluntness usually disturbs people. This is no person.

“Because sometimes I like to see the world. I like to see what everyone is doing. You, in particular, interest me, because you are never asleep. You are always watching me.”

Shouta stands opposite them, does not respond, feels illogically embarrassed by this statement. He becomes aware once more of the cool air on the back of his neck and the sound of dew dripping onto the veranda behind him. The world comes back into focus.

“Besides,” the god sighs, “Sometimes it’s nice to stop and take a break. I don’t just make the sun rise, you know. I make the birds sing. And the flowers grow and the grass turn green. It is all very tiring, being god of the morning sunrise. And, I’ll have you know, the sun is very heavy.”

They look at them expectantly once more, as if waiting for a laugh or a smile. Shouta provides neither. The god supplies the laughter themselves. It rings loudly, so loudly throughout the place, and the birds sing along with the sound joyfully. The trees seem to rustle and the god seems to blend into the landscape and the powder blue sky, a mirage once more, just for a moment.

“Why are you here?” Shouta asks.

The laughter dwindles with a satisfied sigh, and they cock their head inquisitively at Shouta. Those jewel-green eyes evaluate Shouta, see through him.

“Well, there are many reasons,” they begin. They do not, however, elaborate. They merely grin at him before hopping effortlessly onto the veranda and into Shouta’s quarters.

Shouta sighs and follows the god inside. This entire situation is proving to be irksome already.

“And so you will be making a home here?” he asks gruffly.

“If you will have me,” they reply. There is nothing imperious about it, but there is also no doubt or question about whether they are invited.

The simple room has a table at it’s centre, his bed rolled and tidied away. The teapot sits on the table. Shouta places his cup beside it, and watches the new presence familiarise themselves with his quarters. There is very little to familiarise oneself with. There is one door which opens up to reveal his clothes, another to the corridor, at the other end of which is the boys’ rooms. Behind Shouta, an exit onto the veranda. The god investigates neither of these options, and instead kneels before the alcove, making no effort to smooth out their yukata as they do so. The action is clumsy, energetic, as if there is too much inside this human body to control. They pick up Shouta’s katana from its shelf.

“You are a warrior.”

Shouta stands by his table, watches them look down at the sword, hair pouring down the back of their green yukata.

“Yes. I thought you knew everything about me. Having watched me my whole life.”

The god laughs, head thrown back. “Your dry wit is my favourite, Shouta.”

Shouta does not let just anyone call him by this name. He swallows the complaint and allows it. For now.

“No,” they continue. “I only know you in the mornings.”

“I see.” Shouta sits on the floor beside the table, pours himself more tea, quietly wishes that they’d stop touching his things.

“I have guessed as much that you are a warrior, of course.” They replace the katana, stand up quickly and not as elegantly as Shouta would expect of a god. They confidently walk over to Shouta, touch the scar on his cheek for a long moment.

Shouta looks up at them with as blank an expression as possible. Annoyance flashes through him, this person is entirely aggravating, and yet there seems to be nothing more natural than sharing their company. It is infuriating, that he should rather they stay than leave, when in reality, he has only just met them. Increasingly, he feels that, given the god’s behaviour and general obnoxious attitude, he should not actually like them. And yet, he does not just allow them to touch his cheek- he almost welcomes it.

That does not stop his annoyance at the brazen behaviour, of course. It must show on his face, because the god erupts into booming laughter again. They look back down at Shouta, a pout and ridiculously raised eyebrows.

“You do not like physical contact.”

“No.”

They blink, and Shouta considers that gods do not really need to blink. It is an emotional response, and he thinks on it, wonders what the gesture means on a divine being rather than a human. They retract their hand for a moment, brows slightly furrowed, before tucking a small strand of hair behind Shouta’s ear.

“This is my first time feeling the world in a human body,” the god explains, quietly. Unnaturally quietly.

And for a moment, Shouta thinks he is seeing some vulnerability. It does not last long, because they sweep quickly out of Shouta’s vision suddenly, a flash of green and gold. Shouta continues to sit on the floor, and stare out of the opened doors to the veranda, beyond which is the forest which he can see distantly. A cool breeze is trickling in, and the sun has risen a little further above the trees. The birds sing, an unusual song that he does not recognise, almost ceremonious in its sound. The grass seems greener than usual.

Sighing quietly to himself, he considers the reality that an arrival of a god on the premises will probably bring some issues.

And yet, despite how irritating they’ve already proven to be, he cannot find it in himself to uninvite them into his home- rather, he cannot find it in himself to want to. Perhaps, just as they have known Shouta his whole life, Shouta has always known this person. This person, standing behind him and rummaging through his wardrobe with loud tuts and disapproving noises, is the human manifestation of what is realistically his closest friend.

I have chosen very, very poorly, Shouta considers, as the god begins to carelessly fling yukata and kimono out of his wardrobe and onto the floor. Noticeably, leaving his kamishimo and hakama untouched.

“Your clothes are so dreary, Shouta.”

Again, it doesn’t really seem the time to argue about what they call him, but he bristles nonetheless. His relatively peaceful life (as of late, anyway) has been very suddenly disturbed by an intrusive sun god, and there is very little, he knows, that he can do about it.

“What’s wrong with what you’re wearing now?”

“Oh, this?” They gesture wildly and inanely. Similarly, their voice is not soothing or graceful, as he would expect, rather it is loud and annoying, despite its somewhat melodic tones. So strange, how bright and powerful and intelligent they clearly are, and yet how much of this person seems so human, so ungodlike. “It’s… it’s fine I suppose, but I’d like something with, I don’t know, a little bit more flare.”

“More flare,” Shouta repeats dryly.

He sighs. “Well yes, I’m a sun god.”

They say it like there is an obvious correlation between the two. “Fine. I believe the lady of the house should have something, if you really care that much.”

Shouta leaves to go to Nemuri’s room, feels the god follow him. “No, wait here. I’ll bring you something.”

He’s not sure he wants the students to discover there’s a god in their presence when rolling out of bed first thing in the morning. Whilst there’s something about this that amuses him, this also does not seem entirely fair on anybody. He’d rather introduce everyone gently to the fact that they have a new… guest, since they clearly have already established themselves here.

Shouta quietly treads towards Nemuri’s room. She is away with her girls in the forest. They only ever stay here when they have classes with Shouta, or have visitors. For, whilst the world thinks that this is a samurai school for boys and a finishing school for girls, Nemuri, in fact, trains the girls to be vigilantes. Warrior women who mostly dwell in the vast forest adjacent, where no one can find them, not even Shouta, unless Nemuri tells him of their location.

Naturally, not all of the girls who come end up staying under her care. They are tested. Some return home having failed whatever test she issues new arrivals. However, most of them do stay. Most of them are desperate to learn something aside from flower arrangement and calligraphy. Most of them want to be warriors, just like Shouta’s boys.

And so Nemuri’s room is empty, just as he expected. She will not return for two more days, when she will teach them what they would ordinarily learn at a finishing school. ‘There is no shame in learning what is considered a woman’s trade,’ Nemuri argues, ‘especially if it tricks men into underestimating you.’ Shouta smiles at this and opens her wardrobe. Luckily, they have been friends for years, and knows that she would have no qualms with him taking some of her clothes for a strange, noisy god who is currently residing in his quarters.

He takes the most colourful looking yukata- if they insist on a yukata, then that is what they shall get- and carry them back to his room.

When he returns, they give him a blinding smile, as if he has been gone for hours. They almost skip over to him with child like excitement, remove the garments from his arms one by one.

“Oh, these are far more fine, Shouta. Far more fine! Thank you!”

He doesn’t bother even trying to be insulted by the jibe at his lack of taste. He is messy and tired looking and he knows it.

Shouta watches as the god unties the bow of their yukata with a dramatic flick that is entirely unnecessary, the rest of their clothes falling to the floor in a pool of green. They do not have the figure of a rich person; planes of muscle lines their shoulders and arms. However there is also a slenderness to them that Shouta does not have, after all these years of training and farming and warfare. Their skin is pale, but seems to glow- like it is imbued with gold. But never reflecting- no, always shining, giving off its own light.

Shouta looks away, then turns around, arms folded across his chest.

He hears them laugh from over his shoulder. “Oh, really. Humans.

“I’m only offering you a certain amount of respect that any other human would want,” Shouta says.

And I rarely offer anyone respect, he thinks to himself. Not many have earned it.

“How kind!” the god jokes, and Shouta listens to the rustle of material, the pull of a bow being tied. “I don’t really know if I’ve done this right.”

Shouta turns back around, arms still crossed over his chest. They look like they have been dressed by a child. The material gapes at their chest and is wrinkled at the waist, beneath the belt. He merely stares at them.

“I’ve never done this before!” they complain loudly.

“You seemed to put on your previous outfit perfectly well,” Shouta mutters.

“Yes, well. It just sort of manifested that way.”

“And you couldn’t be bothered to manifest a yukata with more ‘flare’.”

“Perhaps I don’t want to use all my divine powers on a yukata!”

“Not my problem. You look fine, anyway, it doesn’t matter.”

They pout. “I want to look good, though. Would it not bother you, or embarrass you for me to introduce myself to your household like this?”

Shouta sighs and feels his eyes roll back into his head. “I have never cared about appearances.”

They laugh. “I suppose that is sensible.”

Shouta looks at them, and they look back with wide eyes. He sighs again.

“Fine. Put your arms up.”

“So bossy.”

“If you will be so childish, then yes.”

They laugh at this, buzzing with energy, then hold up their arms, so that Shouta can bring the belt around from the front and tie it behind, from where he stands.

“Move your hair.”

They tut loudly and pointedly, hands appearing over their shoulder to pull together their golden hair. Shouta grunts, giving his most articulate thank you, and ties the belt into its bow shape.

“Turn around.”

They do, and their expression is not one of irritation or petulance, but interest, and that same intensity as before.

Shouta does his best to ignore it as he flattens out the pleats in the material from the front.

“Why are you looking at me like that.”

“Like what?” they say, expression not changing in the slightest.

“Like you’re…” Shouta pauses, tries to put his finger on it, and grumbles in frustration. “Watching me.”

They blink in surprise, wild green eyes looking up at the ceiling as if giving this deep thought. “Well, I suppose I am. I suppose I have watched you for so long that I don’t know how not to. There’s not much else to do up there. And I find you very interesting.”

“It’s annoying.” Unsettling, he amends in his head.

“Well, I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable.” It is a surprisingly genuine apology. “I only show interest, I don’t mean to be intrusive.”

“You are very intrusive. You have come into my home and decided to stay here without any warning.”

They laugh at this. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. I assumed that if you were not happy with me being here, then you would not hold back in saying so. You, Aizawa Shouta, never hold back in such things.”

And the god has Shouta, there. They are absolutely right, and that is what is most alarming to him. He doesn’t want them to leave. He gives no response to this, and they do not elaborate.

“Well,” they eventually announce, stepping back and giving Shouta a spin. “This will do very nicely! This lady of the house, she has good taste.”

“I’m sure she does.”

“Are you two lovers?” they ask simply.

No.”

“I was just wondering,” they reply, with an air of nonchalance that feels remarkably forced as they comb fingers through their hair and stare innocently up at the ceiling.

“No,” Shouta emphasises.

“You prefer the comfort of men.”

Shouta groans and goes to shut the doors to the veranda.

“I’ve changed my mind. You can go now. Return to the sky and do whatever it was you were doing before.”

“Making the sun rise, the birds sing, the-”

“Mmm.”

“Well, I can if you would like me to. Sincerely.”

Shouta clenches his jaw and opens the door into the corridor, inside the house. He does not respond.

“Ah, see,” they say knowingly. The longer they are in his presence, the more annoyed Shouta becomes. “You are aware of it too, then. That there is a bond between us.”

Shouta does not look behind him, but steps into the corridor and makes his way towards Nezu’s quarters, where he knows he will be awake already. They quietly make their way down the corridor around the inner courtyard, where the bamboo fountain knocks gently against the rock as it fills with water.

He can hear the light footsteps of the god behind him, and a gentle, affectionate laughter.

Shouta, against his best interests, feels the back of his neck prick with heat, and his chest shift uneasily. He does not- will not- consider the god’s words just now. He can hear movement in the boys’ rooms, but they will have to wait until this meeting is over.

“Where are we going?”

“Can you ever be silent?”

“No. Where are we going?”

“To my superior’s quarters, to introduce you. If you really intend to stay.”

“Oh! Does he run this place? It is a samurai school, am I right?”

“Yes. This was his family’s estate, and he inherited it and converted it into the school.”

“I see- oh, yes, I remember several generations of this family. Ah- Shouta, do I need to wear my hair like yours? Will I morbidly offend anyone?”

Shouta turns to evaluate the god. Their hair pours down their shoulders, a shining cascade. Green eyes shine attentively, eyebrows pulled together, a strange smile on their lips. And although they are weird looking, not quite human and therefore quite frightening, they are also incredibly beautiful. Especially with their hair down.

“I do not think anyone here will care,” Shouta says gruffly, turns around and ignores the god’s chuckle.

He makes his presence known outside Nezu’s quarters, and the man lets them in.

“Good morning, Aizawa.”

He remains in the doorway, which he has only opened enough for himself to pass through. The god shuffles and sighs impatiently behind him, out of sight.

Nezu sits behind his table, carefully writing a letter. His small eyes look up at him brightly. Even knelt like this, he is noticeably small. He is dressed far more neatly than Shouta is, always prepared for a prospective parent. Nezu’s quarters are almost as sparse as his own, save for a family painting in the alcove behind him, beside his katana. Before him, sits an ever brewing pot of tea. The man is never seen without a cup.

“Good morning, Nezu.”

“We have a guest, I see?”

His eyes wander over to a space over Shouta’s shoulder- where he can sense the god’s head poking over it comically.

“Yes,” he says, struggling not to combine this with a sigh.

“I had, of course, heard some unusual sounds this morning,” Nezu explains. Ah, yes. Their obnoxiously loud voice and laugh. It would not surprise Shouta if it woke up the students. “Do come in, both of you.”

Shouta enters and kneels opposite Nezu, who puts away the letter out of sight. The god drops to their knees beside him, with none of the grace of a divine being, and sighs contentedly. Their hair settles with an unnatural slowness, like feathers catching the light. They fidget with their yukata, shuffle into a more comfortable position, and Nezu watches with interest. Shouta is, in that moment, incredibly grateful that he was blessed with not being easily embarrassed.

Nezu’s expression is serious, but there is also a smile in his eyes. He bows low, forehead touching the table.

“Kami-sama.”

Nezu is, of course, no fool.

The god waves a hand dismissively, though Shouta does not miss the way they preen slightly at the gesture. It is as if they had not expected to be worshipped, here on earth, in this human form. It does not go unnoticed that they have no problem with Nezu bowing. They also do not correct this honorific. Shouta frowns to himself.

“Principle. This is…”

He feels entirely foolish for not realising that the god has been nameless until now. In his mind, they are simply- the morning sunrise.

“I am a sun god. A servant of the sun,” they qualify, giving Shouta a ‘don’t worry about it, I’ll handle this’ wink. He narrows his eyes at them. “I have come to stay on Earth for a while. I hope this won’t provide too much inconvenience.”

“Not at all. It is, of course, a pleasure to be graced by your presence.”

“Oh, stop,” they wave another dismissive hand, with a smirk. “You’re just saying that because I make the sun rise every day.”

Except, despite their joke, they all know that this is not the case. It is because, although overbearing, they are in fact a pleasurable presence. They bring light to the room, not just the world. It is entirely too obvious that they are a divine being.

“You need a human name.” He says it suddenly, as the realisation comes to him.

Nezu nods, considers this.

“Yes. If you wish to stay, you may want to maintain some secrecy of your divinity to visitors. It would perhaps not be in your best interests to be fawned over by strangers. Word will surely spread.”

They nod, bottom lip pouting. “Yes, I had considered this myself. I do not want the whole world to know of my arrival on earth; this would ruin my plans, somewhat. Well, a part of them, anyhow. Besides, I am not here to be praised.”

They laugh, as if there is something funny in this, and Shouta narrows his eyes at them again.

Nezu’s eyes search, as they always do. “Of course, kami-sama. I am sure all will reveal itself.”

“And you will not be divulging these plans, I assume?”

The god looks over at him with a side eye, and a mischievous smile. There is something strangely bashful in the gesture.

“Not all, no,” he tells Shouta. The mischief slides away, giving in to something more serious. Their eyebrows draw together.

“What I can reveal, is that there is a scourge of demonic activity upon this land, and I mean to stop it.”

Shouta watches them, is momentarily alarmed by the intensity in their eyes, though they stare straight ahead and over Nezu’s head as if they are seeing something he cannot. And he knows, without doubt, that they are talking about Shigaraki Tomura. A messenger of death from hell, breathing plague and destruction throughout the world. There is nothing that anyone like Shouta can do against such a demon; a thousand samurai could not send him back to hell. And so, a god has come.

He knows that he will not reveal anymore. This information is enough, for now. But Shouta would be very interested to know why, exactly, a sun god has been chosen for this task. And what, exactly, their fascination with Shouta is founded upon.

Nezu watches them, a smile playing on his lips. He is enjoying this, Shouta knows it, and it is infuriating. “It may bring hope to the people, should they know a god is here to help.”

“True,” they reply, “Which is why I had not made my mind up yet on a human alias. However, if Shigaraki finds out that I am here too soon, he will build an army before we are prepared.”

Shouta is relieved, at least, that they do not plan to leave the rest of humanity out of this battle.

Nezu nods his head, almost a bow, but not quite. “Then it is decided. For now, we will keep knowledge of your presence within these walls. And should any guests arrive, you will provide a human name. That is, until you deem the right time has come for the world to know.”

They nod enthusiastically, entirely unfitting for the weight of the conversation.

“Excellent! What will you call me?”

Nezu looks at Shouta, and he looks back.

Nezu spreads his hands in front of him. “Perhaps something fairly inoffensive, common. Tanaka, or Kobayashi.”

They tilt their head from side to side, rolling their eyes in thought as if they are deciding on what to eat for dinner- or which yukata they prefer. It almost makes Shouta laugh. Instead, he allows a smile. Such an energetic, positive presence as he’s never known.

“Common is good. I have heard the family name Yamada many times, I don’t mind that so much.”

“Good,” Shouta says, moving to get up, arthritic bones creaking. “Then it is decided.”

Suddenly, the god turns to them and their mouth hangs open comically, scoffs like a slighted teenager. “You would have me go around without a given name! I have just been born into this world and you will have me be Yamada.”

“You chose it.”

This amuses them again, and they fold their arms across their chest, turn towards Shouta with their gaze fixed on him, blinding grin spread across their face. They seem to be waiting for another retort, like this is some verbal sparring match.

You choose my name.”

Shouta looks at them, and the name comes almost instantly, as if it has been waiting to pop into the forefront of his mind this whole time.

“Hizashi.”

The god blinks, and the obnoxious grin fades. The crease between his brows flattens, his face softening, slacking almost. Green eyes widen. Lips part slightly in silent surprise. And there is something remarkably vulnerable in that expression. It appears that Shouta’s choice is unexpected.

Sunshine,” they translate quietly.

“It is fitting,” he replies, equally quietly, and stares resolutely at the flower arrangement over their shoulder rather than the soft smile that is growing on their face. “A man’s name. Is this acceptable?”

They laugh, and it is as joyful as usual, albeit with an edge of nervousness, or perhaps surprise. “Well- yes. I have no real preference. It’s just… as a name, it is very... endearing.”

The room falls very quiet. The silence tells Shouta that perhaps he should be embarrassed by what he has suggested, but he doesn’t entirely know why. He looks back at them again. Because he cannot quite believe that he has managed to stun this person into silence, and wants to check that they are still, in fact, in the room.

They are. They’re smiling more brightly than ever before.

“Hizashi,” they say slowly, rolling the name off the tongue, unblinking, smile still fixed in place.

He nods.

“Then, now it is decided,” Shouta amends. “You would have us refer to you as Yamada Hizashi. You will introduce yourself as a mortal man, a guest of Yuuei Samurai School. If this pleases you.”

They hold his gaze- there is a contradictory softness yet intensity in those eyes that takes Shouta back, stops his heart and seemingly sets it on fire.

“As you wish,” says Yamada Hizashi, head bowing ever so slightly, without breaking eye contact.

The room falls into silence again, and all Shouta can do is look back at them. Him.

There is the sound of someone clearing their throat, and Shouta is suddenly reminded of the fact that they are not alone. He sits up straighter from his position and looks back at Nezu. Whose eyes are moving between he and the god- Yamada- and a small smirk playing on his lips.

Now, at least, he feels embarrassed. It is not an easy thing to make Shouta feel this, and yet here he is, feeling remarkably like he has been caught red-handed, somehow. After a long moment of examining the two of them, Nezu seems to garner what he wants and begins to organise the writing paper on his table.

“Welcome to Yuuei, Yamada Hizashi.”

With this, Shouta nods- his version of a bow- and Yamada does the same, as they unfold themselves from the floor space opposite Nezu and leave the office. Shouta feels the man’s eyes on him as they leave, and thinks he hears a chuckle as he closes the door.

He does not have time to consider the reason for Nezu’s reaction, because the god skips into his vision, stands in front of him, gripping his arms with that tell-tale, absurd grin of his. His hair seems to hang in the air for a moment, falling in the sunlight. He says nothing, simply smiling at him for another moment, before spinning around and making his way down the corridor. Shouta shakes his head minutely, follows him back through his room and onto the veranda.

They both stand side by side on the damp veranda. Yamada’s hands planted on his hips, legs spread shoulder width apart. Shouta’s arms crossed in front of his chest. The mist has cleared, the sky no longer hazy and the sun is slowly making its way further above the forest horizon. Yamada smiles, looking pleased with himself.

Shouta rubs the back of his neck in thought.

“Yamada-” he starts.

He is interrupted by a raucous, almost unbearable laugh. Shouta swears he can hear the birds sing along.

“Shouta, now, come on. Call me Hizashi. That is the name you chose for me, after all.”

He turns towards him, and Shouta holds his warm gaze. He has forgotten what he was going to say. It is slowly beginning to dawn on him that he will be living with this person, a god, a stranger and yet a presence he has known his whole life. It dawns on him that this is, in fact, reality- despite how strange Hizashi is, despite how inhuman he is. And yet, through this realisation, there is something about Hizashi that he cannot put his finger on. Or rather, there is something about this entire situation that he cannot understand, that sets his heart on edge and makes him light-headed.

They simply look at each other, as if to commit the moment to memory, as if to make up for all the time that has been missed.

 

Sato is the first of the students to wake up, as he usually is. He gets up just before the others to put on the pot of rice and boil the water for tea, grill the fish and ready everything. Shouta had at first insisted that all the boys prepare their own breakfasts, but Sato had told him- avoiding eye-contact in the way that’s so typical of an embarrassed teenager- that he enjoys cooking. He therefore allows this to be part of the students’ routine. After all they have seen recently, an extra few minutes’ lie in (and, in Sato’s case, a chance to indulge in a favourite hobby) in is the least they deserve. Even if, at times, they have been reckless enough to set his heart on edge.

Shouta does not usually join them for breakfast, and today is no exception. Currently, he is perched on a rock in the old palace’s back courtyard, looking over at the view. The school is settled near the base of Mount Asama, but not so far down that is on the plains. It juts out slightly from the surrounding forest, built upon a rocky ledge that overlooks the surrounding mountain ranges. From here, the clouds hang low between the dark green, almost black mountains, as if they are a part of the sky itself. From here, you can see the birds journey across the valleys to the adjacent forest. From here, you can see smoke rise from the houses in Karuizawa, the village by the ravine, can almost see the market stalls, but not quite. The sky is grey, verging on powder blue above the clouds, and the sun looks down.

From here, Shouta looks, and is reminded of how much there is to loose.

There’s a clamour behind him as the boys fight over breakfast. He does not bother turning around to inspect the commotion. He knows this routine well.

“Where are my hakama! Aizawa-sensei will kill me!”

Hmmm. Kaminari, of course.

“BACK OFF, asshole, you almost spilled my miso-”

Bakugo, unquestionably.

“Please, oh my god, can someone please help me find my hakama- I’m so dead, I’m so dead-”

“I think you left them outside to dry.”

Todoroki.

There’s the sound of uproarious laughter. It had rained last night.

“Noooo! I don’t have any spare!”

Pfft- you’re just gonna have to wear wet clothes then.”

Sero.

“That would be much more honourable than training in your underwear. I don’t think sensei would appreciate that.”

Tokoyami.

“I would lend you a pair of mine, but I think they might be too large!”

Iida.

“You can borrow a pair of mine, Kaminari! Just don’t wreck them.”

Kirishima.

“Oh- thank you thank you thank you- I won’t, I promise!”

The conversation somehow erupts into a friendly (albeit very loud) debate between Kaminari and Bakugo about breakfast. Typically, the others are quieter. He can hear Ojiro and Shoji talking amongst themselves, Sato asking if anyone wants more rice; it is lucky that they have a rich nobleman from the Nezu family to provide so much. Iida’s interminable excitement for training rises above all surrounding conversation as he chats with Midoriya, and Aoyama complaining mildly about something.

The resilience and positivity of his students has always amazed him. They have seen their sensei near pummelled to death, friends and family killed or endangered by the demons plaguing Honshu. They train tirelessly under Shouta’s unforgiving schedule, and yet their positive outlook never dwindles. It is for this reason that Shouta is sure that they will all make fine Samurai. It is also why he worries about them so much.

There is the sound of squawking up above. Shouta looks up through the branches of a bare sakura tree.

A heron. As far as he’s aware, herons are not local to this area- there are some further down the mountain range, but they never fly so far out, and rarely alone. More than that, this heron is not all white. The tips of its wings are faintly golden, and he knows immediately that this is Hizashi. He knows that herons are seen as messengers of the gods, has seen them often painted with a backdrop of a rising sun. Until now, he had thought these things fanciful.

The sound of its calls are loud and echo through the valley.

After their meeting with Nezu, Hizashi had cheerily announced that he would ‘explore’ the area, since he has never been so close to earth as this. Shouta had been more than happy to let him, wanting to a moment to gather himself and re-acquaint himself with the fact that a god would be living with him. And, to try and get his head around why he affected him so much.

He watches the heron as it seems to turn to look at him mid-air, give out a series of laughing squawks, like a seagull. It descends into the trees above him, far more gracefully than Hizashi would act in his human form. As soon as the bird disappears, his eyes refocus on the sakura branches in front of his view of the forest. There should at least be buds by now. And whilst it is early spring, the weather should also be a little warmer. Winter hangs in the air, is drawing springtime back.

These are only some of the things that he has noticed, since Shigaraki Tomura first appeared.

The sound of his students, thankfully, bring him out of his thoughts. He hears them hurry into the courtyard, knows that they are arranging themselves into a line, as he has had them do for almost a year. He doesn’t turn around, but remains seated, legs crossed and slouched on the mossy rock.

“Sensei- was that you laughing really loudly this morning?” Kaminari asks.

“Kaminari!” Iida reprimands him seriously.

“Yes,” Shouta replies blandly.

“What? Really?”

“Of course not,” he says.

“I told you he had someone over.” Aoyama says quietly.

Shouta sighs. Ordinarily, he would tell them all to mind their own business, except for the fact that he means to introduce them to them to said loud-laughing-person. He considers responding, and chooses not to.

Instead, he listens to the boys erupt into chatter and mischievous laughter, Tokoyama warning them all darkly to leave their sensei alone, Iida desperately trying to regain some order. Midoriya’s conspiratorial muttering gives way to more questions and excitement, and Shouta does not react, merely watches the landscape shift in its minute ways before him. The tremble of a tree as a bear climbs it. The flutter of birds exploding out of the forest horizon, before resettling amongst the trees. The damp clouds slowly descending, smothering the dark, dark green ravine.

The approach of a heron, rising out of the forest.

“You can save your questions for him,” he announces.

He stands up and lets himself fall off the high drop of the rock he has been sat on, landing effortlessly- almost lazily- on both feet, hakama billowing. His students fall into a confused silence.

He sees the heron’s shadow first. He does not turn to see it appear beside him, does not turn to watch Hizashi manifest into his human form in a burst of light. In his peripheral, he feels Hizashi take his place beside him, hands on his hips, yukata rippling and hair standing on end, energy humming around him.

The students watch, mouths agape.

“K-kami-sama!”

Midoriya is the first to fall to his knees and bow. The rest follow suit quickly. Shouta turns his attention from the boys, lying face down on damp, cobbled courtyard floor, to the god beside him. His hair is settling onto his shoulders again, shining just as brightly as when he met him hours ago. His smile stretches absurdly across his face.

“Hello, students!”

“You can stand up now,” Shouta tells them evenly.

Hizashi laughs loudly at the command, the sound booming within the courtyard.

The look up hesitantly, passing glances to one another and standing up, damp marks on their hakama from where they have knelt. There is a moment of quiet.

“Kami-sama,” Iida finally announces, stepping forward from the line. “Welcome to Yuuei!”

Shouta watches the scene play out with interest, decides to hold his tongue. It will be interesting to see how Hizashi treats the boys.

“Thank you, Iida Tenya. I’ve been made to feel very welcome already!”

Aoyama whispers something quietly to Ojiro, eyes bright in awe.

“And thank you, Aoyama Yuga, you have very nice hair too.”

Aoyama looks away immediately, hiding his face in shame. Hizashi laughs affectionately.

“You really are all very sweet.”

“Do you know all of our names, kami-sama?”

“You’re so stupid, he’s a god-”

Hizashi looks at Shouta with a smile reserved just for him, and Shouta returns it. Hizashi turns back to his students and their bickering, and Shouta allows himself to watch the way his hair sways with the movement, falls low down his back, like a noblewoman’s, or a princess’s. Aoyama isn’t wrong.

The boys’ eyes do not leave the presence before them, this god who is bright and loud in all ways possible. The courtyard glows and brightens with him here.

“It’s a reasonable question,” Hizashi replies with a great shrug. “I do, yes, because I like to pay attention. But not many gods care about humans, ultimately. We are all far older than you. And more absorbed in our own issues.”

“How old are you?” Kirishima asks in an uncharacteristically quiet voice.

The grin that spreads across Hizashi’s face seems a little menacing. “As old as the dawn of time.”

The line of boys fall silent at that, and the air feels alive with energy and bird song.

“No need to be frightened, though,” Hizashi adds with a wave of his hand.

Shouta suppresses a laugh, allowing only a smirk.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” Shouta says, stepping forward to Hizashi’s side. “For today’s session, we’ll be focusing on stamina.”

“What?”

“We find out that there’s a god among us, and we’re just meant to carry on training as normal?”

“Yes. And better than that, I’ll be sending you up to the mountain shrine and back. If you don’t make it back by midday you’ll be missing lunch.” He says this through a sadistic grin.

Hizashi leans in close, mouth beside his ear. “Brrr, scary, Shouta.”

“You can talk.”

Hizashi laughs.

Sensei!”

“That’s entirely unfair.”

“That’s barely enough time to-”

“You had better get moving, then.”

Mouths fall open again, and Shouta looks on in boredom.

“And don’t forget your weapons. You need to practice travelling in full armour, too.”

These is a moment’s hesitation before Iida leads the way out of the courtyard, eagerly warming up and encouraging the others to follow. The rest of the group look less excited to hike up the mountain, although Midoriya has that light in his eyes that he always has when he’s presented with a challenge. Shouta is certain that even if he told him to climb to the moon, he would try.

Shouta is considering this as they jog out. Quietly, he appreciates how the god did not patronise any of them during their introduction. Hopefully everything should continue to run smoothly. Hizashi’s keen, green eyes watch the students closely, a crease between his brow.

“Midoriya Izuku,” Hizashi says.

Shouta watches the boy in question chatter with Iida and Todoroki, before disappearing out of the courtyard. “He enrolled last minute. A strange boy, unlike the rest.”

“He is certainly not like the rest.”

“No. His perseverance is unlike anything I have seen from a fifteen year old boy. He is almost unnaturally strong, and has a faster reaction time to any of the others. But he’s still very much a child. He has no control, and often pushes himself too far. His body can’t contain his will.”

Hizashi is very quiet, hand cradling his chin in thought. So human a gesture that it takes Shouta by momentary surprise. As if to counteract this, he turns around and suddenly leaps onto the rock high above them where Shouta had been sitting, with invisible wings. Shouta looks up at the majestic creature that is looking out at the view of the valley- sighs, and wearily climbs up to meet him.

He takes his place beside Hizashi, feels suddenly dull and calloused and old beside him. “Was that entirely necessary?”

“It’s a nice view,” he replies simply.

The sound of the boys ascending the mountain behind them gradually disappears, until they stand in silence.

“Midoriya has the power of a god within him,” Hizashi says.

Shouta sighs, feels the breeze coming over the mountain and whipping up his hakama. “I was afraid of that.”

Hizashi folds his arms, gazing at the tree line with childlike, wide eyes. “He will not learn to control it without the god who gave it to him.”

“I don’t know where that god is. Or who.”

“I think I do. But if he is not training him himself, that means something terrible has happened.”

A flock of birds erupt from the trees below them, and the damp air hangs heavy.