Chapter 1: The Dragon Run Opening Ceremony
Rei adjusted the ceremonial garb of the Tribe Chief in her room at home. She hated wearing this bulky and frivolous clothing and hat but the Dragon Run was the most important event in a youth’s life in the Yuuei Tribe. Twelve of the children would be “coming of age” as they had all turned sixteen years old over the past four seasons, including her youngest son. She found her dragon scale necklace, the only type of “jewelry” she owned. The scales of the necklace belonged to the dragon from her own Dragon Run many moons ago.
“Rei! We’re going to be late, if you don’t hurry up! This is Izuku and Shouto’s big day, we both can’t be late,” said Inko, the tribe’s chief alchemist, entering the room. Midoriya Inko was Rei’s best friend and together they almost made up a whole adult.
Inko had green hair and eyes, with a smattering of freckles over her cheeks and nose and once again, she looked like she was going to cry. Inko was so cute.
“Oh, no, don’t lose it, Inko. You promised you weren’t going to cry,” said Rei, almost complaining. “And if you start crying, I’m gonna start crying thinking about Shouto growing up.”
“But Izuku’s getting so big and soon he’ll find his soulmate and won’t need me anymore,” said Inko, already working herself up into waterworks.
Rei went over and awkwardly, due to the heavy clothing, hugged her friend. “I know, I know, it’s hard. I wish we could keep them young forever. I still cry when I see Touya and Keigo hold hands, thinking about how my first baby is all grown up.” Oh, now, Rei was tearing up thinking about her four children and how amazing they were—Fuyumi and Natsuo had not found their soulmates yet, but Touya did and now, Shouto was going on the Dragon Run.
The two best friends since childhood hugged and cried over their babies growing up, when someone entered the room.
“Oh, for the love of Ziarre, are you two really crying again?”
Rei looked over to find Inko’s husband and soulmate Midoriya Hisashi (Rei’s other best friend), his wild black hair recognizable wherever. Poor Izuku may had gotten Inko’s hair color, but got Hisashi’s unmanageable mess. Hisashi looked both fond and annoyed at the same time, which was his normal way of dealing with the people he loved.
“Oh, sweetie, we’re allowed to cry,” said Inko, sniffling.
Hisashi sighed, shaking his head. “And Granny Chiyo and Old Man Torino can’t start the opening ceremony without the Tribe Chief and the Chief Alchemist. You’re already five minutes late.”
Rei and Inko jumped apart, as Hisashi pulled out two handkerchiefs, one for each of them. Rei wiped her face. “Oh, man, Granny Chiyo is gonna scold me.”
“The kids have been looking forward to meeting the dragons,” said Hisashi, in a light tone. He pulled them to the direction outside, and now they were walking together. “Especially Izu, that’s all he’s been talking about for five years. I feel bad for the dragon that he has to track down; he’ll ask them a billion questions. I fear we might not see him for months.”
Inko gasped, smacked Hisashi on the arm, “Don’t tease me like that, Hisashi! You are lucky you are so handsome!”
“Well, at least, Izu won’t get lost, like another kid I know who has no sense of direction,” said Hizashi, wryly, as the trio made their way to the town square, where Rei was sure that everyone was already waiting for them.
It was Rei’s turn to gasp. She smacked him on the other arm. “You’re a terrible, terrible jerk, Midoriya Hisashi! Shouto won’t get lost…I made sure that Touya, Fuyumi and Natsuo went over the trails of the mountains ten-fold. Even Keigo helped!”
Hisashi snorted and burst out laughing. “You both wound me with your tiny hands and your mean words.”
The trio finally reached the town square which was all set up dramatically for the opening ceremony of the Dragon Run. The Carpenters’ Guild built a temporary stage for the center of the town and the Seamstress and Artists’ Guilds made large banners for the occasion. The entire town was there, even those that were normally out of town due to fishing, the small patrol they had for safety reasons, or just regular travelers to other lands, who brought back a whole of bunch of things and information. Everyone came home for the occasion.
The twelve sixteen-years-olds participating this year were already up on stage, dressed for travel through the trails of the mountains that loomed over them on their island.
The town elders were waiting off to the side, looking surly.
Well, at least, she was only ten minutes late, this time, Rei thought to herself.
“Oh thanks for showing up, finally, you brats,” scolded Granny Chiyo. Shuzenji Chiyo was the Town Chief Witch and Chief Healer and a former Tribe Chief and the top-ranking Elder of the Tribe. Chiyo was short, wrinkly and she was almost constantly exasperated with everyone. Her partner and soulmate Gran Torino was just laughing at them.
Rei, Inko and Hisashi all got light hits on the knees from Granny Chiyo’s cane in retribution. Despite still being grown and high-ranking members of the Tribe, Rei and her two best friends were somehow always still in trouble.
“Ow! Granny Chiyo, don’t be so mean,” said Rei, wobbling a bit in the heavy ceremonial garb of her predecessors. “Did the Dragons give their signal yet?”
“Luckily not yet,” said Chiyo, with a hefty sigh. “Let’s get this done. These kids had to wait long enough.”
Rei knew that Chiyo was not referring to she and Inko being ten minutes late, no, it was the other reason. They normally held the Dragon Run on the Summer Solstice and over three days groups of four would go into the trails and track down the young dragon who also came of age to get the gift of shedding dragon scales. It was already nearing the Autumn Equinox. It was three months later than she would have liked, but they had a serious situation rumbling on their hands.
It was Rei’s own husband Enji who brought back the news from his travels.
There was a group hunting dragons, witches, Fae Kind, and daemons for some nefarious purposes. They called themselves the Human Liberation Front. The group were looking for Yuuei, Shiketsu, Ketsubutsu, Seiai, and Seijin--the five Guardian Tribes, the last safe havens for magic in the world.
Enji brought the news in spring; and then Rei had to spend months traveling to Avalon, the Holy Island of Five Guardian Deities to meet up with the other Tribe Chiefs to discuss safety matters. The meeting took two weeks, since there was a lot of arguing involved from the other chiefs. And since Rei was not there by the time the Summer Solstice rolled around, they couldn’t have the Dragon Run.
Rei was necessary for it as the Tribe Chief, as she was the only one that was able to speak to the Dragon Queen to set up everything. Dragons were traditional like that sometimes about certain things and the Yuuei respected their process. Rei was just thankful that Inko had managed to get a message to her dragon friend All Might to let the Dragon Queen know everything happening.
Rei grinned, despite the heavy thoughts and duties, “Yep, the kids waited long enough. Let’s get this thing started.”
Chapter 2: The Dragon Run Pt. 1
How to Wake up a Sleeping Dragon without Dying
“Alright, see you on the other side,” cheered one of Izuku’s best friends, Ashido Mina, a half-elf, half-human hybrid. Izuku’s friend Mina had slightly pink skin and deep black eyes, due to her mixed heritage. She was always bubble and excited, but sometimes that made her unable to think before she acted, though it usually worked out for her.
Like Izuku had any room to talk, as he was a walking-talking hazard himself.
The four young Tribespeople of Yuuei had entered the woods surrounding their south-side of the island after their families sent them off with a big speech and lots of crying. The four (Midoriya Izuku himself, and three of his friends Ashido Mina, Todoroki Shouto, and Asui Tsuyu) finally reached the Four Paths up the Kamino Mountains AKA the Dragon Trails. Considering that they were under time constraints as their eight other friends were waiting to do their own Dragon Run back in the Tribe’s village, it was no question why Mina was first to impulsively rush down one of the paths.
Izuku sighed, as he, Shouto and Tsuyu lost sight of their cheerful friend. He asked the ever-reliable Tsuyu and the ever-unflappable Shouto, “She does know that she just went down the Wisteria Trail?”
Everyone knew that the Wisteria Trail was the most harrowing of the Trails. It lead up to the narrow ridges of the west side of the Kamino Mountains. Dragons were the least of their worries as other predator magical creatures lived also under the protection of the Dragons on the mountains.
“Not likely,” replied Tsuyu. Tsuyu was a witch apprentice to the Town Elder Shuzenji Chiyo. Tsuyu was short, had been green eyes and green hair, so she almost passed as Izuku’s sister (which they almost thought they were when they were young). She was the most reasonable person that Izuku knew. “I’ll take the Lily Trail, if you both don’t mind.” The Lily Trail was the easy and Izuku had no problem letting Tsuyu go on it.
“Go ahead, Tsuyu,” said Shouto. “My siblings have instructed me to take the Magnolia Trail.” Shouto was Izuku’s best friend since they were born, due to Shouto’s mother and Izuku’s parents’ deep bond as childhood friends. Shouto had heterochromia—his hair was half-red, half-white, his one eye was teal and the other eye was grey. He was a powerful witch, even at his younger age of 16. Like all of Shouto’s siblings, he was also apprenticed to their mother. Shouto had a notorious poor sense of direction, which meant months of preparation by Shouto’s siblings (but mostly Natsuo) to pound one of the paths into Shouto’s head.
The question was if Izuku and his friends were picking the right trails, because there was no guarantee that the dragons they were tasked to find would be easy to find. Reasonably, the Dragon Run wasn’t supposed to be extremely difficult but more tedious than anything.
“I guess that leaves me with the Chrysanthemum Trail,” said Izuku. He was excited like Mina, but he didn’t want to rush and ruin his Dragon Run. “Good luck, Shouto, Tsuyu! I’ll see you back at the village!”
“Good luck to you too, Izuku, Shouto,” said Tsuyu, using her magic to hop down her chosen Trail.
“We will all succeed,” said Shouto, walking calmly down his chosen Trail.
Once his friends were out of sight, Izuku straightened his knapsack and breathed in and out to get himself ready. He was finally going to meet a dragon! It was going to be the best day ever. He hoped that he had time to talk to the dragon. He was looking for a golden dragon with ruby eyes.
Learning about dragons was a passion of his ever since his mother told him tales her dragon friend All Might and his adventures protecting the Yuuei Tribe and the Dragon Hoard from invaders. Izuku had a million and one questions about dragons that the adults tried to answer, but dragons were notoriously closed-off, despite the mutual agreement to protect each other.
He pulled out his journal from his jacket pocket and his charcoal to open to a new page. He began mumbling as he detailed his Dragon Run in the pages of journal number eleven. Izuku may be his mother’s apprentice, learning how to be a good alchemist for the tribe, but Izuku had grander dreams.
Izuku wanted to be a traveler and a writer. He wanted to record his adventures and bring back amazing things from the other lands. However, Izuku knew that his responsibility lay in the village. While he was not the only apprentice-alchemist under his mother’s tutelage, Izuku would never find it in himself to leave his parents. His mother and father relied on Izuku and loved him dearly. He was their only son and so they fussed over him relentlessly. His mother worried and cried; while his father had this weird passive-aggressive overprotectiveness towards Izuku.
The Chrysanthemum Trail was the second most dangerous of the Dragon Trails, Izuku wrote, but thus far, he saw nothing too dangerous. As it was autumn, the trees were turning red, orange and gold. At full autumn the Kamino Mountains really did look like a mountain of gold. He knew from the Yuuei travelers that there were rumors about “a mountain of gold.”
Izuku smiled as he walked the well-worn path, until he was at the base of one of the mountains. From his knowledge about Kamino, the Chrysanthemum Trail lead to the series of caves, which could reasonably house a Dragon or any number of creatures from griffins to trolls.
“Well, it’s now or never, Izuku,” he told himself, as he began his hike up the mountains. He needed to be on the cautious side, because he did not want to get eaten on his Dragon Run. Izuku intended on living a full life and he hadn’t even met his soulmate yet.
Izuku looked at his right hand which bore the mark of his soulmate, a star with many points, which appeared on his sixteenth birthday just a few months ago. Another reason why he wanted to become a traveler was to find his soulmate. His soulmate wasn’t in Yuuei Village (since the soulmate mark glowed upon first touch with your soulmate and then disappeared), which meant that it had to be someone from one of the other Guardian Tribes or an outsider. It was rarely an outsider, as they didn’t necessarily have the mark of the God of Love, Sago.
If he was honest, Izuku had a secret hope for his soulmate, but it just wasn’t possible.
Shaking his head of heavy thoughts from his childhood, he noticed that the trek up became more rigid and tumultuous when he finally reached one of the caves. He peered inside and unsurprisingly found nothing. He didn’t think that the first caves would house any creature due to the fact that they were easy to find, as Izuku and the other Yuuei children explore the base of the mountains before they started their apprenticeships and had more free time.
Izuku sighed and mumbled to himself. “Stop hoping that Kacchan will appear suddenly. He’s been gone for years.”
Kacchan was Izuku’s secret friend from the summer of his 7th birthday. Two months, a young impressionable Izuku spent with the most amazing person. Kacchan was fierce and wild. He was strong and smart. And Kacchan had the best grins. Spending that time at the base of the mountains with Kacchan really gave Izuku the moral support (because Kacchan was never afraid even if he failed, he never gave up) and confidence back in the village especially when studying basic alchemy.
And then that autumn came and Izuku never saw Kacchan again. Izuku speculated (only ever telling Shouto about it) that Kacchan may had been a spirit or even a demon of some kind. There was a deep wound on Izuku’s heart because he never got to say goodbye to Kacchan and Izuku missed the golden-haired boy terribly.
He stared up at the sky and noted the time. “Keep going. You have a deadline.”
Cave after cave, higher and higher, Izuku found several griffin nests, a white tiger, a mountain lion and two arguing goblins. Despite being almost eaten multiple times, kidnapped, and chased through the Northside of the Kamino Mountains, Izuku was actually enjoying his time away from his books and the village.
Finally he reached a plateau that had a huge cave about halfway up the mountain. Izuku was not looking forward to going too much further especially since there were definitely parts of the mountain that the Yuuei tribespeople were not allowed to enter by the order of the Dragon Queen. The Dragon Queen was not someone one wanted to cross.
He entered the confines of the huge cave and found the most beautiful dragon sleeping there. What luck! And it was a golden dragon. Sure, Izuku didn’t know if the dragon had red eyes, but at least, he found a dragon.
How was Izuku going to wake up the dragon without upsetting them? Worse, how was Izuku going to wake up the dragon without them deciding that Izuku was a tasty snack? Granted, Izuku knew logically that dragons didn’t really eat humans, but the golden dragon was huge, barely fitting inside the cave.
The golden dragon was curled in a ball like a cat familiar, snoring away peacefully. It was really a shame that Izuku had to wake them up.
“Master Dragon, I hate to be the one to disturb your sleep,” said Izuku, firmly but not too loud. “But my name is Midoriya Izuku and I’m here on the Dragon Run from Yuuei. I am looking for a golden-scaled dragon with red eyes. I suspect that you are that dragon. So I just need the scale and I will be on my way.”
Izuku shut up when one of the dragon’s eyes opened due to Izuku’s babbling, revealing a crimson eye. He nervously giggled.
The dragon growled, waking up and moving that he was sort of sitting down like a cat familiar or a dog familiar. Still growling, the dragon reached out one of his claws, turning it as a human did to offer Izuku one of his scales that must have had fallen off.
Izuku smiled brightly at the dragon. “Thank you very much!” Izuku approached the dragon’s claw slowly and once close enough, reached for the scale. Izuku was startled to feel the utter warmth of the body heat from the dragon, who stopped growling but watched Izuku with wary crimson eyes.
Then Izuku, as Izuku had the scale in his hand, tripped over his own two feet like the klutz he was and landed right into the dragon. The dragon growled again, but it was drowned out by the burning pain on Izuku’s right hand right where his soulmate mark was glowing and sight of the left claw of the dragon glowing.
Izuku’s heart stopped as the dawning realization was that this dragon was Izuku’s soulmate. He honestly thought, as the tears welled up in his eyes Kacchan was his soulmate deep in his heart. Before the dragon had time to move, Izuku clutched the gifted dragon scale and bolted. It was just too weird.
A dragon was his soulmate?! How?! Why!? Izuku ran as fast as his legs were able to carry him. He stumbled, nearly fell, as he tried to get back to the mountain base. He wanted to go home and never get out of his room.
It was a cold comfort that Izuku would never have to deal with the dragons again as that was the duty of the Tribe Chief and not the Chief Alchemist he was sure to become someday after his mother retired. Izuku was destined to be the soulmate of a dragon and therefore, be alone.
The roar of a mighty dragon echoed the mountains, causing birds and all the other creatures to scurry, while Izuku realized that the dragon might have a different idea of soulmates. Izuku’s running was no match for an angry flying dragon. The golden dragon was more impressive in the sky. Izuku saw the dragons flying from far away often enough, but it was kind of scary seeing it up close.
He didn’t even get to ask the dragon any questions.
Before Izuku knew it, he was being grabbed by two powerful claws, captured essentially by the golden dragon, and staring at the ground, praying to all the deities that the dragon was not about to murder Izuku. He was tense, but his hands still held the scale and his knapsack had been haphazardly forgotten. Thankfully, he knew he still had his notebook in his coat pocket.
Breathing in a few times to calm himself down, mid-flight with his dragon soulmate, Izuku finally was able to enjoy being in the sky, though he was rather uncomfortable being held by the strong claws.
“This is so amazing,” yelled Izuku over the sound of the whipping air currents and the sound of flapping dragon wings. His mind was going a mile a minute, thinking about the things he was learning about dragons right now that he needed to write in his notebook when he got back to the village. It was more than he hoped to get originally.
“Would you calm the fuck down, you stupid babbling weirdo?”
Izuku tensed again, realizing that he was hearing the rumbling voice in his head and not out-loud. He heard about meeting one’s soulmate and how the pair gained a curse and/or ability. His own parents were able to write on their skin with paint to communicate. Shouto’s brother Touya and Touya’s soulmate Keigo were unable to lie to each other. Did Izuku and the golden dragon get a telepathic link to speak to each other?
“Clearly, weirdo, otherwise I wouldn’t be fucking able to talk to you in my regular majestic form.”
“Sorry! I’m just a little confused. But this is something, Master Golden Dragon” said Izuku, loudly. “I like your voice. It’s rumbly but in a warm way.”
“Whatever, Deku. And stop referring to me as the golden dragon. You can call me my preferred name King Explosion Murder or my actual dragon name Ground Zero.
Izuku blinked. Deku? There was only one person that called him Deku in his life. “My name’s Izuku!”
“You said your name was Midoriya Deku in the cave!”
“You misheard,” argued Izuku. The growl he heard was not in his head but rather in real time. It sounded like the golden dragon didn’t like being corrected. “Fine! Call me Deku. But I’m gonna call you “Zero”!”
“No! Absolutely not! You’re not fucking calling me “Zero”?”
“Aww, Zero, don’t be like that,” said Izuku, knowing that he was pushing his luck.
“You’re so goddamn lucky that murdering humans is against dragon law, shortie. But don’t push me, Deku. I swear I’ll drop your dumb ass and make it look like an accident.”
“Will you take me back to Yuuei? I think we need some advice from the Town Elders. I don’t think a human and a dragon had been soulmates before,” Izuku asked, ignoring the threats from his dragon soulmate.
After a slight pause, Zero said, “Dragons ain’t allowed in your village.”
“Don’t worry. They’ll make an exception! It’ll be alright, Zero. Promise.”