Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there lived a prince named Izuku. He was born to King Hisashi and Queen Inko, and his birth brought much rejoicing to the kingdom. For the throne had been held in his family for many years, and all feared for a time there would be no rightful heir.
Now Izuku’s mother was a mage of heart, blessed with words that drew the people to her and soothed their troubles. It was this gift that had raised her from her life as a clerk to the throne. Her husband, Hisashi, was a king of unknown but great power. It was said that none could stand against him when he desired something, and all bowed to his will, though none in the kingdom thought it strange that it was so.
The queen’s guard captain was one Mitsuki Bakugou. Her son, Katsuki Bakugou, was the head of the prince’s guard. And while such a position should have been one of the greatest of honors, Katsuki resented his appointment.
For there was one flaw with the prince.
He was kind, and wise beyond his years, and well learned. He was polite, studied in politics and the way of the sword—but in a kingdom where everyone had magic, he had none.
In the quiet corners and secret places, some whispered that the gods had withdrawn their blessings from the kingdom of All, and that their precious prince would never be able to assume his rightful throne.
His mother told him to pay no mind to the rumors. She reminded him that she rarely used her magic unless she absolutely had to, and that words had power in and of themselves. His father told him over and over again that he had not come into his power until his own father had died, and so Izuku should not worry, for his time would come. His son, not wishing his father’s death to come any sooner than was necessary, took comfort in these words and stopped chasing the dream of wielding magic.
The prince continued to live out his life, doing his best. He valued Katsuki’s companionship above all others, for even if the young man was harsh and brash, he never hid the truth, nor tried to win favors. He would make his way in the world by his own abilities or none at all.
And then, the queen discovered a terrible secret. Quite by accident, she came upon secret writings her husband had failed to hide safely away and discovered the true nature of his power.
He was a necromancer.
Moreover, he was not, in fact, Hisashi at all. He was a great sorcerer from long ago, thought banished by the king’s ancestors. Instead, however, he had managed to claim possession of the body of his foe, ascending to a throne he had no right to. Each generation, he married someone of suitable power to bear him a child, and when the time came, he would use his dark sorceries to take control of his successor, binding them to his former vessel and slaying them to conceal the deed.
Inko knew what must happen. Izuku could not stay in the kingdom of All.
He had to flee.
With Mitsuki’s help, the queen had smuggled both Katsuki and Izuku out of town by nightfall that very day. They were to cross the border as quickly as possible, all the while looking for the Mighty One, the greatest knight-mage of the age. No one knew the Mighty One’s name or where he had come from; he had simply appeared one day, wandering between towns, villages and kingdoms, righting wrongs. It was said that there were none who could match him, and so Queen Inko hoped they would be able to find him and plead for his aid.
Katsuki and Izuku had grown up on stories of the Mighty One. Once, when they had been younger, they had sworn to follow in his footsteps as great adventurers who fought evil. The passage of time and responsibilities of their positions, however, had forced them to lay that dream to rest… and yet now, with Izuku’s symbols of rank hidden and Katsuki’s uniforms stripped of their insignia, they were setting out on an adventure nonetheless.
Odd how a dream come true could become a nightmare.
Not far beyond the capital, the pair chanced upon a troupe of players. Showing them their weapons, the hidden prince and his retainer and offered a trade: if they would allow it, they would travel with them as bodyguards.
“We don’t need guards,” declared one, a dancer named Mina. “We’re plenty strong ourselves! I know how to kick a man’s head right off his neck—and I’m a master of potions besides. Now, if you can perform, that would be a different story entirely.”
“I still think a fire-eater would be a great addition to our group,” the trapeze artist Hanta commented.
“Give me three days and I’ll be the best fucking fire-eater you’ve ever seen,” Katsuki replied boldly. “No one can beat me when I set my mind to it.”
One of the troupe’s strongmen, Eijirou, let out a delighted laugh. “I like him,” he said. “Let’s give him a shot.”
His twin brother Tetsutetsu grunted. “What about the other guy?”
“I’ll be good enough that you don’t need two of us to perform,” boasted Katsuki.
Izuku shrunk back, troubled. What, indeed could he contribute? He was passing skilled with the sword, for sure, but displays of martial prowess seemed an ill fit for the group. He could dance, but the court forms that were all he knew made for a poor show.
“I guess if you can carry the weight for two it’ll be fine,” allowed the bard, Kyouka, “but you better make good on your claims.”
“If nothing else, he can help with my fireworks,” the man named Denki said. “If he’s brave enough, anyway!”
And so three days passed. Izuku became familiar with much of the troupe during that time. He found no task beneath him and helped all in any way he could. This won him the appreciation of many of the troupe members. Kouji, who commanded animals with his power, always had a place for him, and Ochako, who divined futures with the power of the stars, sat with him at every meal. “Don’t worry about not being able to perform,” she reassured him. “You’re working more than enough—we don’t ask Rikidou to do it, after all!”
Izuku privately thought that was an altogether different matter, given that the troupe leader used his magic to preserve their rations and was a skilled cook besides.
He didn’t want to be a burden, but he was the only person not contributing anything…
At the end of three days’ time, the troupe arrived at a town large enough to put on a performance. Izuku helped set up the stage, and then, when no one needed him and the sun was still too high in the sky for the show to begin, set off to see what the place had to offer.
On the outskirts of town he met an old man, gnarled and bent, his hair whitened by the passage of years. His clothing was filthy, little better than rags, and his figure gaunt, as if he hadn’t eaten in days.
People hurried past the old man on their business, paying him no mind, but though Izuku’s privileged upbringing had sheltered him from such squalor his heart was moved, for never had he been able to turn down someone in need.
“Sir, are you well?” Izuku asked him politely.
Despite his looks, the smile the man offered him was warm and kind. “I’m a bit hungry, my boy, but ‘tis nothing you need trouble yourself for.”
“Please, sir,” Izuku said firmly, “I insist. Just give me a little time.” He headed to the market, which he found in want of a scribe that day, and in trading his skills earned enough coin to get the man a change of simple clothes, a visit to the local bathhouse, and some few provisions. “I’m only sorry I cannot do more.”
“Nay, your kindness is more than I’ve known in quite some time. You’re quite the hero, young man.”
“I only did what anyone would do, had they the coin for it,” Izuku protested.
“Ah, but you chose to do it when many would not. These days I’ve come to find that that is the true mark of a hero.” The old man, who standing upright towered over Izuku, lightly placed his hand on prince’s head. “Thank you again. With your kindness I should hopefully reach my destination.
“Where are you going, if I may?” Izuku asked. “Will you be all right traveling alone?”
“Ah—it’s a town not too far from here, at the nexus of kingdoms,” the man said. “I hope to find someone there who might be able to solve a problem for me.”
“The nexus of kingdoms—do you mean the Universal Alliance?” Izuku’s eyes widened in surprise. Known as U.A. for short, the Universal Alliance was a town outside any one kingdom’s jurisdiction. All mages who would achieve adept status were required to journey there, and their adepts were the only ones who were recognized as able to bestow master rank on a mage.
For a moment Izuku almost begged to go with the man. It was said that the Mighty One had once trained at U.A., and it had been a dream of his to do the same.
But he had no magic, and no place in a city so full of it that people said dreams came to life of their own accord there, and that a man could see the threads of destiny that would bind him.
“Safe journey, then,” Izuku said softly. The man nodded and walked away.
As the hour had grown late, Izuku returned to the troupe and watched the performances. Katsuki did an impressive job with his fire-eating (and somehow managed to do it on top of a formation made by Mina, Eijirou, and Hanta, besides). Each was amazing.
In almost no time at all, it was time for the finale, where all the performers did their best beneath a fireworks show… except the fireworks would not light, wet as they were from an unexpected cloudburst midway through the show.
“Stall!” Kyouka hissed at Izuku as she hurried to her place.
Izuku blinked at her several times, then looked at the stage.
Well, it could hardly be worse than the complicated dance of courtly small talk, could it?
Izuku entered the stage and sat at its edge, his legs hanging down as he smiled warmly at the assembled people. “The fireworks decided they were a bit put out by the rain, so it’ll be a few minutes for the finale.”
The crowd stirred restlessly, clearly less than pleased. Izuku licked his lips and, remembering what his mother told him, said, “Let me tell you a story, as my mother once told me. This is a tale of he who is called the Mighty One, the greatest knight-mage ever to walk these lands.”
And so he spoke, his words rising and falling with the story. He felt strangely warm and comfortable, despite the briskly cool night. He felt… invincible.
“…and thus the Mighty One slew the rogue marauder with the help of the one whose eyes see past the night. It is said that even now he wanders the world, seeking out those who need his aid,” Izuku finished, a tension he didn’t recognize flowing from his body as his story came to a close. Before him his audience sat, starstruck. Not a single child’s cry stirred the air, nor a cough, nor a laugh. All were waiting.
And then the fireworks exploded, setting the sky alight and breaking that which had held the audience in thrall. Izuku quickly left the stage, heading behind it so he wouldn’t be in the way.
Later, after the audience had left, Kyouka came to look for him. “You’ve got a gift, Izuku. The ability to command hearts with words alone is rare—I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t need a song or dance assisting them. You’ll make a great storyteller.”
Izuku was flabbergasted. “But I—”
“Don’t sell yourself short!” Kyouka commanded before leaving.
“What the hell, Izuku,” Katsuki hissed. “I thought you didn’t have magic.”
“So did I!” Izuku insisted. Then paused, remembering what his mother had told him of his father’s power. “ He can drain people and even the land of their vitality—what if he was doing that to my magic?”
Katsuki swore. “That would make sense. I remember my old lady saying he got a hell of a lot more persuasive after you were born. We haven’t been to war since. People just surrender.”
“So what do we do?” Izuku asked.
“We keep you out of his hands, that’s what!” Katsuki snapped. “And we see if we can find the Mighty One, like your mom asked us to.”
“Maybe Ochako can tell us something,” Izuku mused. “She might be able to see what lies before us.”
“Tch.” Katsuki didn’t think much of fortunetellers, but had respected Ochako from the second day of their trip, when she handed him a sound defeat in hand-to-hand practice. The girl knew how to throw a punch. “Guess it can’t hurt.”
The group stayed at the town for another performance the next day, then waited for Ochako to divine their fortunes. Ever since she had joined them, the paths she scryed for them had brought them far greater profit, so all were willing to follow what she foresaw.
She turned her eyes to the stars above, the fingers of her hands pressed together as she read them. She frowned a little. “Our road takes us to the nexus. In U.A. we will find our fortunes—but change shall greet us there. For good or for ill, I cannot say.”
For a time the group debated, but finally they decided to follow what Ochako had seen written in the stars.
They set off for the nexus—for U.A.
The journey was not a short one, but it went quickly as the troupe spent the time strengthening the ties among them. Katsuki in particular spent many hours with Eijirou, much to Izuku’s amusement; Izuku, meanwhile, turned his attention mostly to his newly discovered magic, learning the joy of wordsmithing.
But give me a bit more of your time, gentle reader, and let us turn our tale towards another prince, one the fourth child of the king of Endeavor.
The king of Endeavor, Enji, was born a member of one of the warring tribes in the south. The tribes had been blessed and cursed by the fae, who had given them dominion over the powers of fire and summer, but regularly played cruel tricks upon them for their own amusement, resulting in many tragedies.
Enji rose to prominence by gathering the tribes beneath his banner, forming a proper kingdom for the first time, and then won the hand of one of the princesses of the northern kingdom, blessed with the power of ice and winter.
The land between them was united into the land of Endeavor. Together King Enji and Queen Rei had four children. Their first, Fuyumi, was the crown princess. She was a master of ice magic, capable of calling down a blizzard even in the hottest of deserts. None dared cross her.
Their second son, Touya, was born with a gift almost as great as his father’s. His power was too much for his frail body to endure, however; in this he was Enji’s greatest disappointment. In the end, the fae took him at an early age, never to be heard from again… though some claim to have met him among the birdfolk in their travels.
Natsuo, their third child, took after his mother in power but not in scope. His gift of ice was a subtle, quiet one. He found his path in the way of the assassin, the silent death in the night. He managed Endeavor’s spy network, quietly building a power base for his sister to ascend the throne and remove their iron-fisted father from power.
Shouto, the youngest son, was the only one of their children to inherit both the Magic’s of the king and the queen. From the day he could toddle, Enji trained him in the ways of the knight-mage, determined to craft of him someone equal to the Mighty One in power.
For Enji had realized something that escaped the notice of most. When the kingdom of All sent diplomats to other nations, the hosting country would flourish for a time, then fade. Crops would fail. Mines would refuse to give up their profits. Blight would spread through the forests. Despite all of his efforts over the years, however, none of Enji’s spies or mages had found an answer to why this happened.
And thus he would protect his hard-earned wealth and power the only way he knew how: with force of arms.
The stress drove Queen Rei mad, and she threw a pot of boiling water at her youngest son, leaving him with a scar for all his life. She was sent away, locked in a tower with every comfort save a friendly face, far at the end of the kingdom among the mountains.
Thereafter Shouto lived a lonely childhood. Natsuo was more of a passing acquaintance than a true brother, though he always passed on information he found that would benefit Shouto. The youngest prince was closer to Fuyumi, as he often served as the weapon of the crown, handling matters of which she was well informed.
Wielding his fire for the throne had made Shouto come to hate it even more than just he already had. His hands were stained with the blood of countless brigands and pirates, and he resented it deeply. Ice he could use for more than one purpose—but fire only brought death.
Shouto’s few friends were the captain of his guard, Tenya; his personal bodyguard Mashirao; and Momo, the scion of one of the kingdom’s other noble families, whose magic allowed her to craft almost anything.
Many had hoped that Momo and Shouto would marry, but as he aged, Shouto came to realize that he was drawn to those who shared his gender. Never had he been more grateful to not be crown prince than the day he realized this, for he was ill inclined to sire children of his own after the childhood he himself had endured. He kept his dalliances discreet, but enjoyed them nonetheless, though none were great loves of the heart. It seemed that such a thing was impossible for him. He was too damaged by his upbringing to give more than his body, and many of his lovers left unsatisfied in time, though none had been promised more.
It was in his eighteen year that his father summoned him with a surprising directive. “The heir to the kingdom of All has gone missing. As you know, their kingdom is the greatest threat to our prosperity. For now they have confined their search within their borders, but it is only a matter of time until they strike out, thinking another nation has taken him. Before that happens, you must obtain your adept status so you are able to fully protect your country and its people.”
Adepts were able to command the power outside of themselves, forcing it to bend to their will as easily as the power they were born with. The king and his daughter had both cast truly fearsome spells in the kingdom’s defense, and were well respected for it.
Truth be told, Shouto had little interest in achieving the title of adept, but he knew that to do so he would have to leave the kingdom, a thought which appealed greatly to him. To travel to U.A., where creatures of this world and not mingled freely—that had been a dream of his for a long time. “I understand, my lord father. I will obey.”
“Lady Yaoyorozu will also be undergoing the trials. She will accompany you.”
It seemed that his father still was holding out in vain hope that his son would choose to partner with a woman in time.
The man was a fool.
In the end, their party consisted of Shouto, Tenya, Mashirao, Momo, and two trained spies, Mezou and Tohru. The latter two were likely assigned the job to report on Shouto’s progress to the king; in reality, however, both were loyal to Natsuo and would do their best to protect Shouto.
Also, Shouto was fairly certain Mashirao and Tohru were sweet on each other. He and Natsuo had wagered on the outcome of their putative relationship, and Shouto was absolutely willing to give them a nudge here or there.
The party traveled hard, for even if Shouto had no great desire to hasten his return home, he did want to be ready to defend his people if need be. He could dally at U.A. once his trials were complete and leave when a threat made itself known. Being at the nexus of kingdoms, news of such things arrived there even sooner than it was brought to court by Natsuo’s spies.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted by Nedzu, a fae of unknown origin. He looked into both candidates’ eyes before nodding to himself. “Lady Yaoyorozu, your skill as a creator is great, but your designs must be able to lift the spirit as well as fill their purpose. To that end, you will work with Lord Aoyama.”
“Ah, what a pleasure this shall be!” Aoyama appeared to be at least part fae, given the slant in his bone structure and the fact he seemed to be… twinkling, somehow. “I look forward to working with you!”
“As for you, Prince Shouto—I have another task in mind. Come with me.” Nedzu led him through U.A. to a cavern at the far edge of the settlement. Within it, nestled in a large pile of sand, sat an egg almost as tall as Shouto himself. “Your task shall be to hatch this egg.”
“Hatch an egg?” the prince echoed. That… did not make sense. How could such a thing help him master the powers of fire and ice?
…He could probably boil the dumb thing and crack it open that way, but he doubted that was the objective.
“The rest of your party is welcome to partake in any learning they choose, or to spend the time in self-reflection—or in studying another, if they would prefer.”
And thus Prince Shouto spent his first day at U.A. staring at a huge egg, feeling frustrated. This was a stupid, pointless task, he thought.. Thankfully, however, a very welcome interruption came to break up his thoughts as the sun set. “Prince Shouto? Nedzu sent me to bring you to dinner. You’ve been here for hours.”
The speaker was a short young man with green hair. His skin was tanned from hours in the sun, and freckles dotted his cheeks. Rolled-up sleeves revealed strong freckled arms. For a moment, Shouto forgot himself. He had rarely seen such a beautiful person—a beauty that came not just from his looks, but also dwelt in the warm smile on his face that lit him from within.
“Uh—right,” he finally managed to respond. “And you can just call me Shouto—we’re not in Endeavor.”
“Shouto, then. I’m Izuku,” the man responded. For a moment Shouto wondered—could this be the missing heir of All?
But no, the man showed too many signs of hard labor for it. Even he, a weapon of the crown, wasn’t allowed to let his skin become so tan.
Good. That meant no political implications he had to worry about. “Nice to meet you,” Shouto said with a slight smile.
Izuku’s grin broadened. and he gestured for Shouto to follow him. Within minutes Shouto learned that the man had come with a troupe of players who were now studying at U.A.
“My magic came in late, so I definitely need the help!” Izuku admitted with a bit of a laugh. “Honestly, I don’t know when we’ll be leaving anyway. Ochako usually makes those decisions, but she’s totally wrapped up with Tsuyu.” He nodded at a water sprite at one of the tables after they entered the largest building on campus. Next to her a human girl was talking animatedly. “Here, let me introduce you.” He began to point out all those known to him at the table, a substantial number indeed.
“…and this is my instructor in wordsmithing, Hitoshi,” Izuku finished.
Shouto thanked his court training for the ability to keep faces and names paired in his mind, though he doubted that he could have forgotten Fumikage easily. The fae had a rather distinct appearance. “Wordsmithing is a rare magic. Body, heart, or mind?”
Izuku blushed a bit. “Heart. My task right now is to mend three damaged hearts, though it’s not going so well.”
“I’m supposed to hatch an egg. I have power over fire and ice.”
“That… does not sound fun.”
“I’m a bit stumped,” Shouto admitted.
“Well, I’m sure it’ll come to you in time— oh, wait, let me help you!” Izuku zipped out of his seat to aid a gaunt old man hobbling into the dining area.
“He’s got a curse on him,” Mina confided to Shouto. “He can’t tell anyone anything about himself, not even his name, so we’re all calling him Gramps for now. He was hoping someone here could break the spell, but apparently it takes something really specific.”
“Hope it’s not true love. Can you imagine getting someone to fall for you when you look like that?”
“Shut up, Denki. Who says it has to be romantic love, anyway? Maybe family love will work—and Izuku sure seems to care about him a lot already. Don’t you think, Kyouka?” Ochako asked.
“Hmm?” Kyouka, it seemed, was somewhat distracted by her conversation with Momo, who seemed quite interested in her, Shouto noted with approval. Momo deserved someone who cared for her for more than her looks, and bards had a special status that could transcend thorny issues of class.
“We’re putting on a show later this evening, if you wanna come by,” Eijirou said. “If your egg isn’t going anywhere.”
“Sounds good,” Shouto replied, because really, anything sounded better than staring at the egg waiting for who knew what to happen.
The performance was splendid. Shouto had seen a fair share of entertainment during court feasts, but this troupe was a cut above any he’d seen. Not only were their individual talents impressive, they combined a variety of magics in unconventional ways, giving them a breadth most entertainers couldn’t match.
But his favorite was the simple storytelling Izuku did as a coda to the performance. It filled him with warmth and gave him dreams that reminded him of his younger days, when hope had seemed a less fragile and unrealistic thing.
Thus Shouto ended up spending his days mostly with the handsome young wordsmith. They sparred, they talked, they ventured to try the many things U.A. had to offer. Both spent some time each day in the cavern where the egg rested, Shouto prodding gently at the shell or trying to warm the sand while Izuku studied the three stone hearts Hitoshi had given him. To Shouto’s eyes, it seemed like two of them were starting to mend, but one hadn’t changed at all.
Two idyllic months passed this way, and Shouto found himself strangely drawn to Izuku in a way he had never experienced before.
Was this what falling in love was like?
Change came when Lord Aizawa, one U.A.’s great sages, left and returned with a young girl named Eri. She had been badly abused by a group of criminals, leaving her unable to smile and afraid of her magic, for it had gone out of her control.
Nedzu gathered all those present at U.A. and told them the hard truth. “Unless she can come to accept her power, she will never truly control it—but she also cannot come to peace with herself alone.”
The troupe and Shouto’s party, as well as the residents of U.A. who had become their friends, jumped into action. Their shenanigans could make the girl laugh, but nothing seemed to lessen her fear.
“I think we need to try a different approach,” Izuku suggested finally. “Not just our actions—but a story. Something to get the message across.”
There was much discussion of the idea, first its execution and finally the story itself—
(“Why the hell do I have to be a barbarian!?”
“Because it's the main part, Kaachan!”
Finally, however, they were able to perform the tale of Katsuki the Barbarian Warrior and his companion Eijirou, the Red Dragon. It was a very silly at points, and a bit incoherent, but everyone had a part, even Shouto, who played a prince under a terrible curse.
The play ended with Katsuki taking a mortal blow, trying to defend the recently transformed Eijirou, who, now in human form, lacked the armor of his scales. The couple whispered heartfelt goodbyes—
(“I can’t believe you wrote me sappy lines, Deku!”)
—as Izuku, in his role as narrator, came to the front of the stage. “It seemed that all was lost… or was it? For we have one more character who has yet so take the stage: the Fairy Princess who can turn back time. Would she be willing to come and save the day?”
Sitting in the front row of the audience, Eri swallowed hard, looking up at her bodyguard, Mirio. He nodded at her, smiling reassuringly, and so she hopped up and trotted over to the stairs that led to the stage.
“Thank you, Princess Eri!” Izuku produced a flower crown and placed it on the girl’s head, before handing her a small wand topped with a glittering, ribbon-bedecked star. “Please, save Katsuki!”
Eri approached the pair, her anxiousness apparent in her every moment. Tentatively, she waved her wand over Katsuki. “Please get better!”
And then the star on her staff glowed, and gentle white light filled the air.
“He’s cured!” Eijirou shouted. “Thank you, Fairy Princess Eri! We couldn’t have saved him without you!”
“For the Fairy Princess’s power was her own, to wield in both defense and in healing,” Izuku said. “She who was kind and loving cared more for the happiness of the two lovers than for politics or greed, saving them without demand.” He turned to stare at the audience. “Our story has come to a happy end, distinguished guests—let us send off the loving couple!”
And with that, Denki’s signature fireworks took over, launching themselves above the stage as the cast took their bows. Eri approached Izuku, still clutching her wand. “Do you really think that… my power could do something like that?”
“I know it could,” Izuku said firmly, kneeling before the girl so their eyes could meet. “It’s your power, Eri. It will do what your heart tells it. Sometimes your heart is afraid and makes mistakes—but that doesn't mean it can’t do good as well.”
Eri wrapped her arms around Izuku’s neck and cried, her tiny frame shaking with the force of her sobs. These were not tears of sorrow, however, but tears of healing, so none worried that they fell.
Standing near them, still in his costume, Shouto stared at Izuku for a long moment. The man’s words kept ringing in his mind, like a bell calling for his attention.
“It’s your power.”
Shouto turned to stare at his left hand. Long had he hated his flames and the destruction they had created, but perhaps—
“Sometimes your heart is afraid and makes mistakes.”
He had to use his fire differently—not out of rage, as his father had taught him, nor out of fear, as he had for years.
Out of love.
Shouto turned and left the stage, breaking into a run. He knew what he had to do, now. The trek to the cave had never seemed so far, but at long last he made it.
He placed his left hand on the egg and thought about the people he loved.
His mother, who he missed but still cared for.
His sister, who had tried to shield him from his father when possible.
His brother, who kept him safe from the dangers in the shadows.
His friends, who watched his back and made him smile.
Izuku, Izuku, Izuku.
Izuku, who had finally coaxed him to love, who had never asked anything of him and yet gave him every kindness. Izuku, who tried to heal everyone he touched in his own way. Izuku, whose smile brought out his own, who made him feel alive .
The egg grew warm, but not hot, beneath his touch, and then—
The shell slowly began to crumble as the creature within the egg started to move. Shouto had one brief moment to be concerned about the nature of the beast before it successfully tumbled out.
It was a white dragon, with wings and tail marked crimson and gold. “Oh…”
The beast let out a pathetic sound before lunging clumsily at him, knocking him to the ground. Alarmed, Shouto sat up quickly, but the dragon merely settled its head in his lap, breathing heavily.
“You’re beautiful,” Shouto whispered, removing a bit of stray eggshell from one of its horns.
“Shouto, are you all right?” The prince looked up to see Izuku at the cave entrance, concern in his eyes. “You ran off, and… well, I was worried.”
“I’m fine,” Shouto reassured him. He smiled down at the dragon. “I did it.”
“Oh wow, she’s amazing!” Izuku said breathlessly, carefully coming closer. “What’s her name?”
Shouto smiled. “Why don’t you come up with it? That is one of your areas of magic.”
Izuku knelt, lightly touching the dragon’s snout. “I think something like… Firefrost. I guess you two match.” He grinned, and Shouto snorted at the joke. “She’s probably hungry, though."
“Well, we’d better get her something to eat, then.” Shouto carefully disentangled himself from the dragon and rose. “Nedzu should know what she needs.”
“The kitchen is already hopping with the afterparty celebration, so it shouldn't be too hard to get something,” Izuku commented as they left the cave together. “So, what did it?”
“What you said to Eri made me think about… my own power.” Shouto went quiet for a few minutes. “I’ve hated it for a long time, but maybe… maybe I shouldn’t. It’s a part of me, after all, not my father.”
Izuku beamed. “I’m so glad.” He stopped walking, cupping Shouto’s cheek with one hand. His thumb slid over the scar, but it didn’t feel like he was highlighting something for Shouto to be ashamed of—no, it felt like acceptance .
“Izuku…” The other man’s eyes were warm and kind; Shouto felt as though he could lose himself in them forever, but in this moment there was something he wanted even more than that.
And so he kissed him.
Izuku made a little gasping sound but yielded willingly to him, moving closer into the circle of his arms. His mouth, his warmth—it was amazing, everything that Shouto could possibly want. He never wanted to let go.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, you moron!?”
“What is your problem, Katsuki?” Shouto asked coolly, his eyes narrowing as Izuku was forcibly yanked away by his friend.
“Not you, this idiot!” Katsuki shook Izuku hard. “You know you can’t just go around kissing whoever you damn well please.”
Izuku’s mouth was set in a stubborn line. “But Kacchan—”
“Don’t fucking ‘but’ me, Deku! You’re the goddamn crown prince ! You’re supposed to know better!”
Shouto froze. Most of the troupe and of Shouto’s party within earshot (more or less all of them; Katsuki was many things, but quiet was not one of them) stopped and stared.
“He’s a prince, seriously?”
“Seems more like a peasant to me.”
“You’re Prince Izuku?” Shouto asked softly.
Izuku nodded, lowering his eyes in shame. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” His voice wavered, but he did not cry; years of etiquette training were useful sometimes after all.
Shouto thought about it for approximately half a second.
He wasn’t mad that Izuku had hidden his identity, given the animosity that existed between their kingdoms (mostly because Enji made it). His feelings didn’t change just because Izuku had a title. He was the youngest son. He could afford politically inadvisable choices sometimes.
“I don’t care.” He drew Izuku closer, out of Katsuki’s grip. “I love you, no matter who you were before you came to U.A.”
“This is all very touching, Prince Shouto,” Tenya interjected, “but I believe we need an explanation.” He turned to the other prince and Katsuki. “Please, my lords, will you not tell us your tale?”
Izuku and Katsuki exchanged glances; after a moment, the blond man shrugged. “Might as well.”
All of their friends gathered around Izuku as he recounted their tale with occasional interjections from Katsuki: the discovery of his father’s true nature and power, the king’s theft of Izuku’s own magic, and their quest to find the Mighty One.
“We’re pretty sure that if he gets his hands on Izuku he’ll take his body, and with it, his magic, so we can't go back,” Katsuki finished. “U.A. is as good a place as any to stay.”
“I’m worried about my mother, though,” Izuku admitted. “He’ll suspect her for sure.”
“Still, holding out for the Mighty One… I don’t know if that’s smart,” Hitoshi commented. “He hasn’t been seen for almost ten years now.”
“I know that, but what else can we do? Nothing in the archives at U.A. has given us any idea of other ways fight him.” Izuku slumped. “It might be a long shot, but… I believe in the Mighty One. I know he can help us! We just have to find him! Once he shows us the way, we can save my mother, my people—everyone!”
It was said that good things come in threes. Tonight Izuku had helped Eri, Shouto—and now he helped one more.
Bright light enveloped the ragged man the group fondly referred to as “Gramps,” who sat listening not too far away. As it faded, it revealed a man of great power and stature, who flexed his arms. “I am here!”
“…Mighty One?” Izuku whispered, staring at the man in shock.
“Indeed!” The hero smiled warmly at him. “Listen, and I shall tell you my story. Some years ago, I went to confront the ruler of All, having learned of his crimes against the people of multiple nations. He had, many years ago, slain my teacher, but in her final moments she used the last of her power to place upon him a curse: if I were to die by his hand, he would die as well. Thus I was the only one who could fight him. It took me many years to discover his identity, but when I did, he laid a spell on me that made me forget who I was.
“There were three requirements to break the spell: an act of kindness given with no expectation of repayment, a heart that cared for me with no fear of my appearance, and words of sincere faith spoken without prompting. You, young Izuku, blessed me with all three. I will be more than honored to stand at your side in battle to liberate your family and your home.”
“But let us not be hasty,” Nedzu interjected. “Your foe is ancient and crafty, and if you are not adequately prepared, you will surely fail. Moreover, both of you have passed your adept trials, so you should learn the secrets of your power before venturing forth.”
Izuku started in surprise, then withdrew the three stone hearts that represented his challenge. Sure enough, all of them were mended.
Three hearts: Eri, the Mighty One, and Shouto.
His head spun. This was not what he had expected when he had been given the task.
“The real question is how to get back into All’s capital without being spotted,” Tohru said. “I can’t exactly go sharing my gift with all of you.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Momo put in. “We make the journey as a troupe of players, one so famous that we can command a royal performance.”
“Not a bad idea! We might even be able to do a play like we did tonight to get the truth out about what is really happening in All!” Kyouka suggested. “I can already think of some pieces that would work.”
“A good start,” the Mighty One boomed. “We must be swift but careful. The king of All has a room full of stones that are draining the vitality of other kingdoms. Not only must we defeat him, we must secure these so the prosperity of the afflicted nations can be restored.”
"But how can we do that?" Izuku asked. "None of us are necromancers!"
“What he is doing is not exactly necromancy, but the process of transferring energy. It’s rare to be able to do it in multiple forms, but not impossible. The art was also practiced by his brother, years ago. He taught it to one person, and they taught it to the next, preserving the knowledge so that we might right the wrong he’s committed.” The Mighty One smiled at him. “You’ve proven yourself pure of heart, young Izuku, and so I will teach you this secret as well. I can think of none better to carry on this tradition.”
“Thank you, Mighty One,” he whispered.
“Well, then, onto the planning—and the plotting!” Ochako declared. “Izuku will have to be the narrator, of course, but we’ll have to disguise him…”
The next month gave them all barely any time to rest. Shouto split his time between learning his lines, working with Firefrost, and mastering the adept magics. Izuku was even busier, memorizing a huge amount of text, learning both adept magics and those necessary to combat his father’s actions, and training with his sword diligently. They only had moments of peace at night when they fell asleep side by side.
Neither had spoken of what had happened before the Mighty One’s curse was broken. Both knew that now was not the time for promises, not when they were going into a situation from which they might not make it out alive.
They would have time to talk about it later—or they would not talk at all.
The plan to travel as a massive troupe worked. The group of players Katsuki and Izuku had first encountered, augmented by Shouto’s entourage, the Mighty One, and some of the residents of U.A. who had dedicated themselves to the cause, left the nexus of kingdoms, heading towards All. Though she had protested bitterly, Eri had remained behind with Nedzu and Firefrost. No one thought the battlefield an appropriate place for a child, most of all Shouto, who had himself been dispatched to combat and witness the horrors of war firsthand far too young.
After two well-received performances in the capital, they were asked to give their greatest performance yet at the castle.
And that was when it all went wrong.
“Where’s Izuku?” Shouto asked, pausing in the middle of stage preparations, his eyes scanning their group.
Upon their arrival at the capital, Izuku had been requested to stay with at least two other members of the troupe at all times. He had been frustrated, but complied due to everyone’s concerns for his safety. Yet now, as the group counted their numbers, no one could find him.
“I have a bad feeling about this…” Denki muttered.
“People of All!”
The troupe turned their heads to see the king of All standing on the balcony. Beside him, in far more formal clothes than Shouto had ever him wear, stood Izuku… but there was something wrong.
His face was blank, like a doll’s. It lacked all of Izuku’s vitality, the very spark that had drawn Shouto to him like a moth to a flame.
“I have a very bad feeling about this!” Denki declared. “Guys, I think—”
“My son has returned! Rejoice, for no longer will uncertainty plague our nation. And lo, his very kidnappers thought they would be able to trespass on our lands again without consequence. Guards, seize them!”
“Go!” the Mighty One shouted, casting off the voluminous cape in which he’d cloaked himself. Shouto didn’t hesitate, following Katsuki into the castle, Eijirou right on their heels. Katsuki knew the building intimately, thanks to his guard experience, and he would be able to get them to Izuku as quickly as possible.
The king looked merely amused when the three young men burst in upon him. His son stood, eyes vacant, not so much as twitching at their appearance. “Izuku!”
“You’re a bit early.” The necromancer waved an idle hand, and all three of them went crashing into the wall, pinned there as if bound by chains. “Don’t worry. You’ll get your chance to kill me in a moment—or this body, at least. It’s far past time I transferred.” He smiled pleasantly. “I owe you my thanks, truly. This entire fiasco has been a great favor to me. It’s always difficult getting rid of old bodies without implicating my new one—and any differences in Izuku’s behavior can be passed off as trauma from his ‘kidnapping.’”
“Fuck you!” Katsuki screamed, still struggling mightily to break free. “He's not yours!”
“Oh, but he is, my dear boy,” the necromancer countered, his voice mildly reproachful. “He was born for this purpose and this purpose alone.”
Shouto gritted his teeth, but tried to focus inward instead of responding to the taunting. He called upon the heat in the air, turning its power against the bindings that held him.
“Ohhh?” The necromancer watched him with interest. “I see, Enji’s youngest. I would much prefer to drain you properly, since you have so much vitality—but if you insist—” He formed a ball of purple energy, and then, almost carelessly, hurled it at Shouto.
“No!” Suddenly Izuku was moving, throwing himself between the projectile and Shouto, taking the hit with a cry of pain.
“Izuku! ” Grief and rage gave Shouto a strength he didn’t know he had. He called on both halves of his heritage, turning the power of heat and cold against the startled necromancer. The sky answered his call, and lightning fell, incinerating the man until nothing remained.
His death released all three of them from their bindings, but Shouto barely noticed, focused only on getting to Izuku’s side. He placed his hands over the wound, trying desperately to stem the flow of blood. “Izuku—” The edges of the wound were an odd purple color that made him fear no healer would be able to fix it, even if they could find one in time.
“Sorry. Panicked.” Izuku shakily lifted his hand to cup Shouto’s cheek. “I… love you.” Each word seemed a struggle for him. “Please… take care. Of yourself.”
“Izuku!” Shouto sobbed, cradling the other prince’s dying body in his arms.
How could this have happened? How could he have loved, only to lose so soon?
How could he do as Izuku asked in a world without him?
“Don’t give up!” came a familiar, high-pitched voice. “I can save him!”
Shouto looked up in surprise and desperate hope—and there, on the balcony, was Eri, scrambling down from Firefrost’s back. The dragonet wasn’t strong enough to carry a full-sized person yet, but Eri’s tiny frame wouldn’t be a strain. “How—?”
“Lady Ochako said I needed to come, so we followed you. I’m sorry.” Eri hurried over to them, her fingers glimmering with power. “I can do it! I know I can! He showed me how!”
Shouto shifted, laying Izuku carefully on the floor. Beneath Eri’s hands, his wounds reversed themselves, vanishing as if they had never been. Even so, even after her light had faded, he didn’t move. “Why won’t he wake up?” Shouto’s voice cracked in desperation.
“Kiss him, stupid,” Katsuki muttered, rolling his eyes. “Don’t you know anything?”
Oh. That was how the stories went, wasn’t it?
So Shouto bent his head and gently kissed the man he loved. For a moment, the lips beneath his were cold, but then—suddenly, it felt as though a spark jumped between them, and Izuku’s body began grow warm again. Green eyes flickered open, confusion melting away to a warm smile. “Hi.”
Shouto sighed in exasperation, but could not hide his relieved smile. “Hi yourself.”
“If you ever do that again, I’m gonna kill you myself!” Katsuki snapped. “Come on, Eijirou. We gotta find Queen Inko.”
“You know,” Izuku said, interlacing his fingers with Shouto’s, “I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to offer you a hand in marriage for saving my kingdom.” His eyes sparkled. “Anyone in my family you like?”
“Are you sure, Izuku?” Shouto asked, hesitant despite the willingness of his heart. “You’ll need an heir—”
“We can adopt, or maybe—maybe your sister can help us.” Izuku’s eyes lit up. “You said she wanted children but not a husband.”
“Maybe,” Shouto agreed. He was a bit jealous of Fuyumi that way. The custom of the northern tribes dictated that inheritance only mattered through the bearer of the child, not the sire. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m pretty damn sure I just died, and after that I’m not about to marry less than someone I love.” Izuku swallowed hard. “Not if he wants me.”
“I do,” Shouto promised. “For all the days of our lives.”
Smiling warmly, Izuku rose, gently tugging Shouto’s hand. “Then—I think we need to tell the people what happened. Come with me?”
Izuku went to the balcony and began to speak of all that had happened, using his magic to show the people that his words were true.
Later, Shouto would meet Izuku’s mother. Queen Inko would rule as regent until Izuku turned twenty-one. In the years between, the lovers would go on many adventures, traveling to restore the vitality stolen by the king of All, visiting Shouto’s family, and most importantly, rescuing his mother from her tower prison.
Firefrost grew in size, eventually able to carry multiple people on her back. She became a symbol of the engaged royal couple, going about doing good deeds.
The Mighty One stayed in All. Much to Izuku’s surprise and joy, he found a life partner in none other than Izuku’s own mother, who had never expected to find love after her political marriage. After Izuku’s ascension to the throne, he was proud to marry them in one of his first acts as king.
The couple’s friends and companions remained with them in All, each finding a calling that suited them. Many wed long before the pair of princes, who were married the longest night of the year after Izuku took the throne.
What followed next is another story, and this one has run overlong. Thank you, gentle reader, for sharing this tale with us. May all your endings be happy, and may you never forget the power of words.