In a land fraught with boiling-red rivers, icy-white deserts, and lush-green expanses, dwelled an ancient stream of energy deep within the core of the surface. It was teaming with bursts of jolting electricity that spread throughout the world but it remained hidden and untouched for centuries. There was no rhyme or reason to where the limitless energy came from or even what it could do, but one day an inhabitant of the land learned how to harness it. Thus began an evolutionary change that brought forth magic into a world where none once resided.
Kingdoms grew into elaborate cities that harnessed the magic for their own daily gain while villages popped up and struggled on the outskirts, praying for a glimpse of such power at least once in their lives. At first, materials and various amulets, set at exorbitant prices, were needed in order to utilize the energy. These prices were so outrageously high that no commoner could ever dream of affording one. Until, one day, rumors were spread about a certain child in some long-forgotten town that had been born with a glowing insignia on their pinky. Throughout this child's life, it quickly became apparent that they didn't need props to harness energy any longer. Evolution had begun yet again in the human race.
It was a rarity to be born with a mark on the body, showing the signs of inherent power. A rarity that proved to be passed down through bloodlines. These bloodlines were worshipped and stood above all the others. Rising to the ranks of royalty, nobility, knights, or heroes. They weren't the common man, anymore. They were more. Much more. They had strength and power. They had the world bowing down to them at their fingertips and they thrived off the attention; the wealth and status it gave them.
Many problems arose, surrounding the rarity of the marks. Hunters began to search for weaker power holders to enslave and sell off for breeding purposes in hopes of creating stronger power holders down the line. In hopes of creating an army of elite users that could overpower any kingdom in its way. Conflicts arose between nations until a fire struck the earth, causing seas of blood and fields of corpses to litter the ashen-ground beneath everyone's feet. A fire so fierce, so bloody and ferocious, that nations across the world crumbled to their knees in awe. Relinquishing control over to the magnificently winged-beasts and their riders that stood gloriously above them all.
The war over the power struggles forced the Hunters into exile in hopes of never allowing them to become of use again. But they sat in the shadows, waiting for the chance to reemerge and set claim once more on the greed that dwelled deep within their souls.
Many years have passed since the Great War and villages began to settle back into their mundane, yet peaceful lives. They let the moments that haunted them drift away into listless memories and enjoyed living in the serenity they had been given, knowing the power struggles had come to an end. But, the fear still remained deep in those that suffered during the battles. Several commoners even settled for uprooting their whole families to move closer to kingdoms in hopes of being offered protection in case of another war.
Then, there were some who had lost too much in the wars. So much had been taken away from them and no matter how they struggled, they weren't sure they could ever get their lives back to normal again. But, time never stopped moving forward and with time, wounds would begin to heal.
The sun and moon continued their perpetual cycle, dancing in the sky; setting and rising with no end in sight. Morning dew drops formed on tiny blades of grass that danced lazily in the soft, warm spring wind. Lush fields led up to a waking village that dwelled near an ever-thickening forest. Muddy roads hardened into dry dirt under the rising-suns blistering rays while it beat away the dense fog that had blanketed over the thatch roofs of various buildings.
The crow of a rooster stirred a bleary-eyed woman from her slumber. She slowly rose up from her straw bed and let her green hair fall in loose curls around her shoulders. She stretched up on her tippy toes before exiting her bedroom and heading to inspect what the chores were going to be for her and her sleeping son today. She shuffled her feet across the wooden floor and began to pull out meat from their preservation cabinet. She set in on the table and opened up the shutters to let the morning light pour in.
Her small house was located a little further away from the main town and she preferred it this way. The silence and peace it provided her family was all the more she could hope for. But, that meant they didn't have the same functionality in living that the rest of the town got to experience. While the town shared water from a well and didn't have to travel far to get it, Inko Midoriya and her son had to walk to the nearest spring out in the woods to get their source. It wasn't too far of a walk and was a lot closer for them to reach than the well was, but the water wasn't clean when they got it back so she had to boil it before they used it at all.
She also needed to grab some eggs from her chickens and trade a few for milk down at the trader's inn. She wished there was more she could do for her and her son when it came to their clothing attire, but unfortunately, this was as good as things got for them. Ever since she lost her husband in the war.
"Izuku," Inko's warm voice called throughout their tiny home. The sound of a wooden door creaking open let Inko know her baby boy had woken up when he heard his mother.
"Good morning, Izuku. I need you to fetch some water from the spring. Do you think you can do that for mama, sweetie?" She asked him.
Quickly, Inko swiped her messy hands on to her white apron and grabbed a woven basket off the table to head to gather the eggs.
"G' morning, mama," Izuku said sleepily.
She glanced over and smiled at the sight of her small son rubbing the sleep from his wide, emerald green eyes. Little tufts of his green curly hair poked up in different directions, indicating the amount of tossing and turning he had done while he struggled to sleep on the hard surface of his straw bed.
"I have to run down to the town and get us some milk. Be careful, okay, baby?" She insisted.
Inko had taught Izuku long ago how to complete the daily chores in fear that one day she may not be around anymore. She didn't want him to be helpless in the harsh world that surrounded them like she had felt once her husband had left. He was young, so young, but he was living in a place fraught with danger. He needed to know the basics of survival, especially with how the town viewed their family. Hisashi, her husband, went missing in the war and was pronounced dead after 2 years of no return.
However, rumors began to spread that Hisashi didn't head off to battle to fight with the kingdoms, but rather that he lied and headed out to fight against them. On the side of the Hunters. Inko knew this wasn't true and she knew for a fact that Hisashi did indeed perish because his best friend returned a year after the rumors spread and Hisashi had been pronounced dead. He told her how Hisashi died in his arms and he wished he could stop the rumors from continuing for her, but no one would listen to him anymore.
He had also been subjected to the harsh rumors and was pronounced dead himself. When, in fact, he was sick from gangrene after the war. An infection that set in on his legs after having them nearly chopped off in battle. He had finally healed enough to head home, but what he returned to was scorn and mistrust. The complete opposite of what he had experienced in the town before he left. Eventually, the hatred proved to be too much for the man that risked his life for the family that abandoned him and he ended up taking matters into his own hands. Inko shuddered at the thought of what she saw hanging from the old willow last winter.
She would grit her teeth together though and never take the easy way out like he did. She had a son to provide for and no amount of cruel treatment from the townspeople was going to stop her from doing just that. She didn't care if they were forced to move to the outskirts because of the mistrust they had for her. She preferred the peace and it gave Izuku someplace to run and play when he got bored, rather than dealing with the cruel taunts the other children would throw his way. It was a peaceful solitude for them and she wouldn't change it for the world.
"M'kay, mama," Izuku replied.
He followed Inko to the door and put on his grass woven sandals. Inko watched her son for a moment to make sure he was fully awake and aware of what he was going to be doing before heading to grab the eggs from the coop. Izuku dragged his tiny feet across the grass to grab his pail and began to follow the small dirt path down to the creek bed.
He stumbled a few times while trying to step over fallen logs in the dim morning light. In the distance, he could hear the familiar sound of running water and knew he was close. The path came to an end and he followed the flowing stream down to where it pooled into a small spring. Because the water was running constantly, Izuku and his mother would take baths at the end of the spring where the water let out through a small waterfall. In summer, Izuku really enjoyed playing in the water with his mother, but in winter... he preferred it when they would break the ice and boil it before taking a bath, rather than using the frozen water just then and there.
Izuku walked up to the spring and dipped his bucket in, careful not to slosh it too much around while carrying it back to their home. It took him several trips to finally fill up their water reservoirs and by the time he had finished, his tiny arms were shaking while his tummy was rumbling. Knowing that his tasks most likely weren't done for the day though, Izuku started the fire under the reservoir to begin cleansing it for use. When the flames began to crackle, Inko had finally returned from town with a fresh jar of milk.
"That's perfect, thank you, Izuku," Inko said, watching her little boy stoke the flames under their water.
"Have some jerky and milk before you go out to play today, okay?" She continued.
Izuku smiled brightly and raced to the counter to grab a few slices of meat. He was happy to know that his chores were already done for the day. Inko poured him a cup of milk and patted him on the head. He downed the glass quickly before racing out through the front door with his meat in between his teeth. Hungrily, Izuku tore into the food and happily began to head out into the woods.
He didn't enjoy playing with the other kids in town because he had heard them whisper mean things about him behind his back several times. That wasn't something he enjoyed, so he tried to keep to himself instead. His mom had taught him how to identify different plants that surrounded their woods, so he would often head out to perfect his survival skills instead of playing with everyone else. Any herbs he collected, he liked to bring them home to his mom and see if he grabbed the right ones. It always put a smile on her face and that was something Izuku loved to see. He loved to make his mom happy because hearing her cry at night before she went to bed made his chest feel funny.
Getting down on his hands and knees, he pushed over a small log that was laying on top of several different plants that he wanted to inspect. There was a soft rustling that came from somewhere to his left and he froze, afraid of what it might be. He had walked close to the cave that rested just passed the spring in the woods and there were stories that the older townsfolk always told the children. Stories of a troll that lived in the cave who would eat any children that entered. Izuku knew he wasn't actually in the cave, but that he was close.
What if the troll decided to go for a walk that way and planned to grab any children that he came across??
He had heard that the troll would eat the flesh in his soups and use their bones for necklaces around his neck. Izuku didn't want to become a necklace so he tried to stand up to make a run for it when small hands landed on his shoulders.
"EAAHH!!" Izuku cried out in fear. Tears streamed readily down his face while he curled up into a ball to try and protect his bones.
"Ahahaha!" A familiar voice began to giggle incessantly next to him. "Did you guys hear that?! What's wrong, stupid? Afraid of the woods?"
Izuku sniffled and peered up from under his arms to look at the group of kids from around town. He frowned, wondering why they had ventured so far out into the woods just to find him. They never came over here and it made him sad to know that they had invaded into his personal space.
"W - What are you d - doing out here, Mineta?" He questioned while rising up from the ground. Izuku huffed and brushed the dirt from his ragged-clothing. He didn't want to deal with them any longer so he started to walk away.
"Hey, wait," Mineta called. "We were wondering if you wanted to play hide-and-seek with us all?"
Izuku's heart skipped a beat from sudden happiness at the offer. It had been so long since they had wanted to play with him and they had even come all the way out there just to find him. Of course, Izuku wanted to play.
"Y - Yeah! That sounds like fun!" He happily agreed. Unfortunately, Izuku missed the hidden sneers that painted across their faces; mistaking them for grins of joy.
"Great! Then, you're 'it'! Also, we made up some new rules, Izuku. The person that is 'it' has to wear this rag over his eyes to prevent him from peaking." Mineta pulled a dirty cloth from his pocket and walked over to Izuku, wrapping it across his eyes. Then, someone grabbed his hand and started to lead him through the woods.
"W - Where are we going, guys?" Izuku questioned.
"Oh, uhm... Izuku is so good at being 'it', that we decided it would be more fun if we all played in an area that you don't explore every day. It's not fair to us, you know? You get it, right, Izuku? It's only fair," one of the other's explained.
"O - Okay, I guess that makes sense," Izuku responded, stumbling blindly over various stumps and rocks while he was led deeper and deeper into the woods.
Eventually, their footsteps began to echo around his ears, but Izuku didn't find this to be odd at all. He was just thrilled that he would be given the chance to play with everyone again. He was happy that they were acting like friends with him.
"Alright, Izuku. You can take the rag off now!" Someone shouted.
Their voice bounced off walls that towered over Izuku in every direction. Afraid of how loud it all sounded, he quickly took the rag off and his eyes widened in fear.
The other children began to laugh at Izuku's shaking figure while he stared off into the vast dark expanse of the forbidden cave in front of him. Immediately, he turned around and started to scramble back to the entrance, but what he found there only broke his small heart even further. Standing in a line and holding various rocks of different shapes and sizes, stood all the other children. Their grins finally looking to him like the sinister sneers he blindly refused to see in the beginning.
"Run, little weakling," Mineta scoffed.
They raised their hands into the air and started to throw the rocks at Izuku's head. He ducked, hoping to dodge the stones to no avail. They hit him repeatedly, making him cry out in pain.
"Mama!" Izuku screamed.
He couldn't run forward because it hurt him too much and they kept getting closer and closer, trapping him between the darkness and the light at the entrance. Mineta hurled the largest rock, sending it soaring through the air. Izuku tried to escape, but tripped and the rock came plummeting down on his head.
"AH!" Izuku screamed in pain and doubled over, holding his hand across his face where the stone had hit.
"I said, run. Go on, get!" Mineta said again.
He reached down to grab another large boulder and finally, Izuku did what he was told to do. He stood up on shaking feet and turned to face the darkness in the cave. Deciding he would rather risk his life in the hands of a troll he never met than to stay there and die at the hands of the children that mocked him his whole life, Izuku raced into the blackness.
The greenette continued to run until he couldn't hear their voices any longer. When he thought he turned around to look out the entrance, he realized there was no light to tell him if he had managed to face the way he came anymore or not. His heart sank, realizing he had gone in too far with no way back out.
The troll really was going to get him. His tiny lip began to tremble and his arms kept shaking while he wrapped them around himself and crouched down to cry. His sobs echoed off the walls around him and he quickly lost track of time. A freezing chill began to seep into his small little bones and he shivered, wishing for some light or fire of sorts to help him out of where he was.
While huddling in his spot on the ground, a bright red light flashed through the cave for a brief second and Izuku's breath hitched in his throat.
"The troll..." he whispered quietly.
A whimper pierced the air while he tried to hide the sounds his sniffling made by burying his face deep into the crevices of his arm. He could hear footsteps steadily approaching him and the light continued to grow brighter with each passing second. Izuku knew it would only be mere moments before he was devoured and his bones were added to the necklaces that dangled from around the troll's neck.
Suddenly, the footsteps stopped just behind Izuku's cowering back, causing his whimpers to escalate while his chest heaved breaths in desperation. The only other sound besides his gasping sobs were that of trickling water somewhere further into the darkness. The silence dragged on for a long time with nothing happening to him. Slowly, Izuku began to calm down and his eyes slit open. His head was still buried into his arms so the only thing he could see was the ground beneath his feet. But, to him, that was a big problem.
The fact that he could SEE the ground beneath his FEET?!
With a jolt, Izuku shot up and began to take off, wanting to desperately get away from the source of light that was bouncing around the walls. But, to his utter dismay, he tripped and only succeeded in face planting straight into a nearby boulder.
"Ow!" He huffed.
He struggled to scramble back up to his feet before an exasperated sigh rumbled through the cave.
"Oi," a low voice said.
Izuku froze, terrified of moving and alerting the 'troll' to his whimpering figure against the bolder that just assaulted his face.
"Stop that stupid noise."
The voice sounded again and this time, Izuku perked up realizing that whoever the voice belonged to... he didn't sound like... an adult? Cautiously, Izuku turned his gaze around to peek behind him. What he saw standing there most definitely wasn't a troll. He stared up in complete awe of the small spiky-haired blond that flashed a pride-filled smirk down in his direction.
"Why're you crying in my cave?" The strange child demanded to know.
"Y - Your cave?" Izuku asked softly.
The blond huffed once, refusing to let anyone tell him otherwise. He had been wandering around in the gardens before he noticed a shift in the air. Deciding there was no time like the present, he walked right up to the shifting space and found himself instantaneously surrounded by darkness. A flash of red had momentarily dissipated from his sight, telling him he had used his magic to go through what looked to be a portal.
The moment he stepped foot into the cave, he proudly declared it to be his own personal secret base. But, within seconds his base was already infiltrated by the enemy. Staring down at the whimpering greenette, something tugged against his chest and instead of declaring war on the intruder. He decided that recruitment was in order. He needed a squire of sorts to do his bidding anyway. What king would he be if he didn't command an army? For an army, he needed knights. But, the cowering child before him wasn't fit to be a knight just yet, so therefore, he would become a squire instead.
"Yes, my cave," he smirked.
Izuku blinked up at the blond before peeling his gaze away to look around. A deep, shaking breath sounded in the blond's ears when Izuku noticed that this was all there was. This was just a cave. There was no troll in sight. It was probably just a story the adults told them all in an attempt to scare them off from something that could potentially be dangerous.
"W - What's your name?" Izuku questioned, trying to rise up to his feet to greet the other boy.
He felt so much safer just having him around in those few moments and he wanted to get to know the person that wasn't actively throwing rocks at his head.
"Katsuki Bakugou," Katsuki stated. He tossed his head back, waiting for recognition to dawn on the little boy, but to no avail.
"Bak - ? Baku? Mmm... Katuki?" Izuku tried to say.
His name felt foreign on his tongue and held a certain ring to it that he couldn't quite place. Katsuki scowled when he noticed that Izuku was failing miserably, but his frown deepened at the sight of blood that just continued to trickle down the greenette's face. It was almost like the other boy hadn't even noticed he was bleeding so much. Or rather, that it happened so often that he didn't even care to wipe it away anymore.
"No! Idiot, Ka - tsu - ki Ba - ku - go - u!" Katsuki snarled, elongating each syllable to make it easier for the smaller boy to grasp onto.
He took a step closer and cupped the curly-haired teen's cheeks in his hand to begin inspecting the wounds further. Izuku didn't know what to do or where to look anymore. His emerald green eyes darted around the cave while Katsuki ran his small thumb over the blood. Izuku winced a little but didn't want to make eye contact just yet. His fleeting gaze landed on the flickering torch behind Katsuki before he gave up and turned back to the blond once more.
Izuku stared up into the blond's crimson irises and something stirred within him. His eyes burned again with unshed tears, but this time... it was because he finally felt safe. Finally, he felt safe enough to let the pain register in his body and he wanted to crumble at the blond's feet. But, before he let himself fall to pieces, something shiny caught his attention.
Sniffling, his gaze flicked down to the ruby red jewels that were dangling near the blond's pale neck.
"P - Pretty," Izuku whispered.
His voice was soft and delicate, making the blond hum in response. He was still inspecting the damage on the greenette's head. He knew it was bad and without the small boy's knowledge, Katsuki had begun to heal him. He wasn't yet a master when it came to healing magic, but he knew enough to patch the flesh back together that had been split open. He barely even realized that Izuku had reached up and was now holding his earrings in between his delicate, little fingers.
"Kacchan?" Izuku whispered, trying to get his name right again.
At this, Katsuki's concentration snapped and he growled lowly. He squinted his eyes down at the greenette that was still transfixed at the sight of his rubied-piercings.
"It's rude to ask someone their name without introducing themselves first. Don't you know anything, idiot," Katsuki scolded.
It was his way of asking for Izuku's name without letting on that he was curious, settling for the nickname, 'Kacchan'.
"Gah! You're right. I - I'm sorry. Don't tell mama, please?" Izuku questioned.
His eyes flicked back up to meet with Katsuki's and the blond simply nodded. He didn't even know who the greenette's mother was, so there was no way he was going to be able to say anything.
"Thank you, Kacchan," Izuku sighed and let his hands drop down to his sides. "I'm Izuku Midoriya!"
"Heh. Even your name could be read, 'useless'. Couldn't it, Deku?" Katsuki smirked. Izuku furrowed his brow, not understanding what he meant.
"Don't tell me... you can't read?" Katsuki blinked. Never had he met someone that couldn't read and write before.
"No, I can't. Mama can't afford for me to have books," Izuku explained sheepishly.
A rough sigh sounded through the cave while Katsuki took in Izuku's worn down appearance. Of course, he couldn't read. He couldn't even afford proper clothes or learn to walk right, considering he face planted into a non-moving boulder like it was supposed to somehow get out of his way instead.
"I'll teach you then. I can't have a stupid squire. We have a lot to work on since you're so useless. Understand, Deku?" Katsuki demanded.
Izuku smiled at the blond's words. For once in his life, he felt like he was finally making a friend. Sure, Katsuki came off to be a little brash, but it wasn't too bad. At least, it wasn't anything he didn't think he could handle on his own.
"I would l - like that, Kacchan," Izuku said happily. "How are you going to teach m - Wait a minute! Where did you come from?!"
He didn't understand why it took him so long to realize that Katsuki... came from out of nowhere. The glow from the torch sitting against the cavernous walls behind him lit up the full expanse of the cave. There was a small trickle of water on the other wall that dripped down into a tiny stream that led further out, but that was it besides the large pointed rocks and white sediment.
They were in the full depths of the cave with walls on all three sides and only a large tunnel that Izuku figured led back out the way he had come. He knew no one else had followed him in there. He would have seen the torch or heard the footsteps behind him. Besides, Katsuki came from the location of the dead-end and virtually appeared out of nowhere.
"I came from that," Katsuki simply stated.
He turned around and pointed at the shifting veil in the air. Izuku squinted his eyes and tilted his head to the side before sighing loudly. Giving up, he crossed his arms, wondering if Katsuki was messing with him.
"I don't see anything, Kacchan. Uhm, now that I think about it. Mama told me n - not to talk to strangers. How d - do I know you're not actually th - the troll and you're pretending to be nice to get me off my guard?"
Carefully, Izuku began to take cautious steps backward, putting some distance between himself and the strange blond.
"You can't see it? Do you not have the mark? That makes sense, seeing how you're so weak. Here, I'll show you just once, useless Deku."
With that, Katsuki walked forward until a flash of red radiated around the cave and his entire body just disappeared from view. Izuku stared in complete wonderment at the vanishing mystery he just witnessed. He waited for what felt like hours for Katsuki to return, even though he had no clue it had actually only been about ten minutes. When Katsuki reemerged he had a few things in his hand.
"Okay, first, Deku. This is for you. I'll teach you how to use it since I don't need it. Then, next, these are your new clothes. Wear them when we train. Then all of this is for the base."
Katsuki began unloading his trinkets onto the ground, searching for a dry spot to rearrange all of his belongings. Izuku looked at the glowing green amulet that Katsuki had placed in his hands in complete admiration. It was stunning with small emeralds lining that of a sleeping dragon insignia. It dangled from a chain so he put it around his neck and tucked the priceless artifact under his shirt so the other kids wouldn't see it and steal it from him.
Next, he unfurled the pile of clothes that were in his hands. They were the nicest set of clothes he had ever laid his eyes on. They were made out of thick leather that looked like it could protect him from the sharpest of swords. Whereas, the insides were lined with the softest fur in the world.
"K - K - Kacchan?!" Izuku stuttered out.
His heart was beating wildly in his chest. He may have been only a child, but he knew when something was expensive. His mother taught him how to live a life where he understood the value of something and this... these gifts, were worth more than their house combined. He couldn't possibly accept these gifts. Wherever Katsuki had managed to get them from, Izuku knew he needed to put them back. There was no way these would go unnoticed.
"What is it now, Deku?" Katsuki grumbled while rolling out a small rug for them to sit on.
"This is to - too much! I can't accept these," Izuku breathed. He came closer to the blond and knelt down next to him. "Where did you even get something like this?"
"They're my old clothes and amulet? Why? There are no holes in the leather, right?" Katsuki wondered. "I thought they would fit you. You're smaller than me, so they should be fine."
He turned his attention away from the greenette and continued to create their secret base. Izuku sighed in defeat and folded the clothes back up before continuing to help the blond with his tasks.
"There! That's done, now. Deku, first things first. We need to set up some rules. Okay? Rule number one! You have to listen to everything I tell you, since this is my cave and I'm letting you in on the base, got it?" Izuku nodded in understanding.
He trusted Katsuki's words. There was something about his authoritative demeanor that just screamed for Izuku to obey him, so that's exactly what the greenette planned to do.
"Good. Next, what do you do in the mornings? When can you come here?"
"Uhm, I have chores to help mama with, but I get to play after they're done so long as I'm back by nightfall," Izuku explained.
"Okay, then every day we'll train after your chores are done. We have to learn the basics of fighting because you don't even know how to walk since you're so useless. Then, I'll teach you how to read and I'll teach you how magic works through the amulet. I'll create the world's best squire out of you. Then, if you get to be good enough, I'll make you into a ruler, like me!" Katsuki grinned happily at his well-thought-out plan.
"But, Kacchan. I could never rule something on my own," Izuku said softly.
"Don't be stupid, Deku. You won't rule it all alone, you'll rule it together with me. Like you could ever rule something without my help," Katsuki scoffed.
"Ah. That's true." Izuku nodded his head, but the sudden movement made his vision blur for a moment. He hadn't realized he started to tilt closer to the ground until Katsuki surged forward to catch the falling greenette.
"Hey, Deku. What happened to your head? Why were you crying all alone in this dark cave anyway?" Katsuki questioned. His voice was a barely audible whisper while he gently helped Izuku to lay down on the rugs they just splayed out.
"Uhm, the other kids played a mean trick on me and forced me in here by throwing rocks at my head. It's okay, though, because I found you, so I don't really mind," Izuku smiled softly, but the dizziness wasn't wanting to go away.
"Hey, don't close your eyes, Deku. W - Where's your house? I'll take you home for now, okay?"
Izuku mumbled a small response in agreement, so Katsuki did his best to hoist the greenette onto his back and started to walk through the cave. He left his torch behind and just followed the cavernous walls with his hands. Light began to illuminate the cave the further he walked until they emerged through the mouth.
Izuku weakly pointed to a small path that led out into the woods, so Katsuki headed in that direction. The path was almost entirely covered from view and if the greenette hadn't gestured toward its location, Katsuki would have missed it entirely.
After about ten minutes of walking slowly, he came out from the path to find a small little wooden cottage off to the side.
"That's it," Izuku murmured in his ear.
Katsuki walked up to the door and used his tiny leg to kick it open. Inko jumped in surprise before she turned around, ready to fight whoever intruded, but upon seeing the two boys, her breath hitched in her throat.
"My poor baby!" Inko rushed forward and took Izuku off of Katsuki's back.
She hurried him to the straw bed, laying Izuku down before rushing off to find some medicinal ointments. While she was gone, Katsuki walked up to the side of the bed and began to heal Izuku's wounds more thoroughly.
"What are you doing?" Inko questioned when she came back. She had spotted the soft red glow that was being emitted from Katsuki's hand which made her pause momentarily in the doorway.
"I - I'm not a master at it yet, but I'm trying to heal him," Katsuki admitted.
There was something about her emerald eyes that made him feel a little uneasy. They seemed to hold a world of love and understanding. A gaze that was so kind that he wasn't used to being placed under it. He shifted awkwardly on his feet, but didn't stop his healing attempts.
"Oh my, you have a mark, don't you, little one?" Inko hummed softly. Katsuki nodded in response while Inko approached and started to wipe the blood off of Izuku's head.
"I think you're doing a wonderful job. Thank you for helping Izuku. Do you know what happened?" She questioned.
"He said some kids made him go into the cave by chasing after him with rocks," Katsuki muttered.
A flush of red shot up his cheeks at the compliment and with it, a newfound desire to make the mother proud. He wanted to continue receiving her approval but didn't understand why.
"Why can't they leave him alone?" She asked quietly. "Who are you? Are you his friend?"
Katsuki lowered his arm when he couldn't heal Izuku any longer. Using magic put a toll on his tiny body, making him drowsy.
"Yeah, he's my new friend, mama. We met in the cave. He can vanish into thin air," Izuku exclaimed proudly.
Katsuki awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, giving Inko a brief smirk of cocky attitude. "I'm Katsuki Bakugou, ma'am. There's a secret portal between my gardens and that cave. I don't vanish into thin air, stupid Deku."
Inko inhaled sharply, recognizing the Bakugou name. She blinked and looked between the royal prince and her son, wondering just when Katsuki had given him a nickname. He even healed her baby boy. She couldn't feel happier in that moment, knowing Izuku was well on his way to having friends in very, very high places. But, he was only 4. There were still many years to pass them by. Many years. So there was no telling what Izuku's future really held. For now, though, she was happy to see her baby boy had finally made a friend.
"Mama, I feel better now. Can we go back to playing?" Izuku asked, scrambling out of bed and trying to run out the door.
But, he paused just before the exit to make sure he really did have permission to head out. It wasn't even noon yet so there was still a full day left for the duo to play around. Inko sighed in relief that her son seemed perfectly healthy thanks to Katsuki before nodding her head. Immediately, Katsuki and Izuku raced back out the small cottage door, toward the cave that would become their personal secret base.
"Ouch, Kacchan!" Izuku cried.
He fell to the ground while Katsuki grinned victoriously above him with his training sword dangling over his shoulders. Izuku rubbed the sore spot on his wrist where Katsuki had managed to hit him in order to deflect Izuku's weapon.
"I've told you, Deku. You need to stand with a steadier stance or I'm just going to keep hurting you," Katsuki huffed.
He set his wooden sword down and approached the greenette to inspect the damage that had been done. Izuku's wrist was red, but didn't seem to be sprained or anything. It would just leave a small welt if it were to leave something behind.
"Let's take a break for now," Katsuki stated. Izuku hummed in agreement, but when he tried to stand, he put his weight down on his injured wrist which caused him to wince in pain.
Katsuki reached down to give Izuku a hand and they walked back over to their secret base. Several months passed since they first met back in early spring. Katsuki felt like Izuku had a knack for working with magic and wondered why he wasn't born with a mark since he was so capable. But, he wasn't going to tell him that yet. He wanted Izuku to keep coming to meet him every day and was afraid that if he told Izuku he was getting better, then the greenette would want to try training on his own.
"Hey, Kacchan," Izuku began while taking a seat on the rug. "I'm glad I met you."
Katsuki blinked before sitting down across from his friend in worry. What Izuku had said seemed so out of the ordinary that he wondered if his friend was sick. Not that he didn't agree with Izuku, he just wasn't expecting a sudden burst of affection like that. It made his cheeks heat up in bashfulness.
"What the heck, Deku?" Katsuki mumbled.
He flicked his eyes up at the greenette and felt his heart pound rapidly in his chest. There was something about the innocence in Izuku's emerald gaze that made him feel a burning warmth in the midsts of his chest. The feeling was intoxicating and he wasn't sure why, but he craved it. Nights, when he went home after a full day with Izuku, were the worst. He caught himself sneaking back out and walking to Izuku's home, just to crawl through Izuku's bedroom window and curl up with the greenette. He would wrap his arms over the fluffy green curls and the rapid beating would return. It soothed him, knowing that Izuku always returned his embrace and never once questioned what Katsuki was doing there. It just felt so right.
"I was talking with mama this morning and I told her you were my best friend. She asked me if I loved you and I laughed. Of course, I love you. You're Kacchan, how could I not? I thought she was silly for asking. She said that she's making lunch today. The trees and gardens are giving us fruits finally! So, it should be yummy!" Izuku hummed happily.
"Wa - ..? Y - You... love me?" Katsuki breathed out.
His cheeks flamed a vibrant red in understanding. Izuku so easily put into words the burning sensation in his chest. He so easily revealed to Katsuki the aching he had to hold Izuku close. The aching to protect the greenette and hold him tightly in his arms.
"You too? You're also asking me this? Of course, Kacchan. You're my best friend. It would be weird not to love you," Izuku chuckled.
The warm burning quickly sharpened and a new feeling emerged. A sharp pain that twisted around his heart, making him feel like he wasn't going to breathe ever again. It wasn't the same love. Izuku... didn't love Katsuki, the way Katsuki loved Izuku.
"Oh, r - right, stupid Deku. Of course," Katsuki mumbled. His voice sounded strained to the greenette's ears, so Izuku scooted closer and placed a cool hand on top of Katsuki's forehead.
"Kacchan?" He questioned. "Are you feeling alright? You look red."
"Izuku," Katsuki responded and reached up to take the smaller boy's hand in his. "I love you."
Izuku inhaled a quick, deep breath when he heard his name roll off of Katsuki's tongue. His heart clenched desperately, holding on to the four words that the blond had uttered. Never before had Izuku thought he would want to cry when he heard the word 'love'. But, in that very moment, his throat went dry and his eyes began to water.
"Mmm," he nodded. "I love you, too, Kacchan."
"No, Izuku. That's not what I mean. You'll understand one day," Katsuki said in defeat.
The look of pain in his eyes only made Izuku want to cry harder. He didn't know why his best friend was so sad, so he pulled him in and did the only thing his tiny arms were capable of doing for them. He hugged him.
"It's okay, Kacchan. I'm sorry I'm slow, but I promise to understand one day," Izuku whispered into the blond's spiky hair.
Katsuki nodded his head in response before pulling away. Izuku flashed him one of his brightest smiles before letting his gaze linger on the ruby-red earrings once more.
"So pretty," Izuku murmured.
Often, he would reach out to touch the jewels and Katsuki would use those moments to take in Izuku's enamored expression. The way his cheeks would flush a delicate pink and his emerald eyes would sparkle above those small, spattered freckles.
"Yeah, pretty," Katsuki hummed in response. "Do you want one?"
"What?" Izuku let his hands drop and gave his best friend a puzzled look.
"Here. Keep it forever, Izuku, and if anything ever happens to us, we will always know who the other is from the matching pair. So long as you have one and I have one, we'll always be together, forever."
Katsuki reached up and took the earring out. He grabbed Izuku's wrist and placed the jewel in the greenette's open palm. Izuku just continued to stare into Katsuki's eyes, not grasping the gift like Katsuki wanted him to. So, the blond forced Izuku's fingers to curl around it, accepting the priceless gem once more.
"Kacchan?" Izuku questioned.
He thought his best friend was acting weird, but he wasn't sure what was going on. Every little thing Katsuki did made his tiny chest hurt and he didn't like the pain it brought him. It was nothing compared to when he got a cut or scrape somewhere. This was worse, way worse. He felt like he was being set on fire from the inside out and there was nothing he could do to save himself. Wondering why Katsuki was causing him to hurt so much, Izuku's small tears began to pull over the sides and down his freckled cheeks.
"Don't cry, Izu," Katsuki said softly. He leaned forward and placed a tender kiss on Izuku's forehead.
"D - Did that help?" Katsuki questioned. Izuku nodded once but his tears kept flowing out, so Katsuki kissed the corners of the greenette's eyes, trying to stop the flow.
"What a - about now?" He asked. Once more, Izuku nodded and this time a small smile played on his lips.
"O - One more?" The greenette shyly asked. Katsuki gave his signature smirk and kissed Izuku on the forehead again.
"Why were you crying, Izu?" Katsuki questioned his friend.
"B - Because, it sounded like you w - were saying goodbye and it hurt me. You're not allowed to ever leave me, Kacchan," Izuku sniffled. A warm chuckle rumbled in the blond's chest in response.
"I'm not going anywhere, stupid Deku," Katsuki laughed. He knew there was no way he would ever be able to leave the greenette to his own devices. He would worry too much for the small boy's safety if he wasn't by his side.
"Why do you like my earrings so much?"
"They remind me of y - your eyes, Kacchan. So pretty," Izuku smiled softly. He was looking down at the gem in his hand, entirely missing the massive blush that raced up the blond's face in response.
"I'm hungry, Deku. L - Let's go get that lunch you were talking about," Katsuki grumbled while trying to hide the redness on his face. Izuku quickly hopped up to his feet, pocketing the earring, and started to lead the way. At the very mention of food, all his troubles washed away and that was all the more his childlike mind was focusing on anymore.
They ran down the path back up to Izuku's home and barged through the door. "Mama!"
Inko jumped once more and turned around, wondering why she still managed to be startled when this was a daily occurrence for her. She smiled at the two huffing children and motioned for them to take their usual seats at the table.
"So, how has your training been going, Izuku?" Inko questioned. She had heard all about how Katsuki was going to teach Izuku magic and was actually quite pleased with how much Katsuki was willing to do for her son.
"It's going ok - okay. I need more time, but I think I'm better than when we first started. But, I - I don't know for sure," Izuku said shyly. He glanced over at Katsuki to see him nodding in reassurance.
"You're not that bad, Deku," Katsuki mumbled. A slight blush appeared on his cheeks, but he ducked his head down in an attempt to hide it. Inko raised an eyebrow, quickly catching on to his sudden peculiar behavior.
"Did you boys do anything else today?" She pried while setting down their lunch. Their garden hadn't been affected by any pests that year and she counted their blessings for the luck that was slowly growing in their favor.
"Uhm, yeah! I told Kacchan that I loved him then h - he gave me his earring and I thought he was saying goodbye, but he wasn't. I was really sad but he made me feel be - !"
A low rumble emitted through the house, shaking everything off the tables and cutting Izuku's explanation to an end. Inko quickly stood up from her seat and raced outside to see if she could find the source of the explosion. To her horror, screams of agony pierced her ears and a raging fire blazed high into the sky.
Katsuki and Izuku followed Inko's lead but when they saw the flames, they froze in their footsteps.
"I - I'll go get the guards," Katsuki huffed softly.
He knew someone strong that could save Izuku's town from whatever was causing the explosions and fires. Inko was too focused to hear what he suggested but Izuku turned to face him with fear in his emerald green eyes.
"K - Kacchan?" Izuku asked. Katsuki raced forward and embraced Izuku quickly.
"Stay safe. I'll come back for you, Izuku. I love you, remember that. Always," Katsuki whispered before turning away and racing into the woods behind them.
"Kacchan!" Izuku called, tears streaming heavily down his face. "Mama! Kacchan!"
"Katsuki!?!" Inko called out, finally turning around and seeing that the blond prince had taken off. "Izuku, where is he going?"
"To get the guards?" Izuku tried to chase after his best friend, feeling a painful jab in his chest and knowing that the only thing that could heal the hurt he felt was if he was by Katsuki's side. But, Inko held fast onto his shoulders, preventing her son from chasing after him.
"Okay, he'll be safe. Come with me quickly, Izuku," Inko exclaimed.
She wrapped her arms tightly around her baby boy's waist and lifted him into the air. Izuku clutched ahold of her shirt and began to cry loudly. He didn't understand what was going on but he was scared and now the person that made him feel safe was gone.
Inko's heart broke hearing her precious baby cry for his friend, but she had to keep him safe. She had faith that the young prince could take care of himself. He was from an entirely different world than they were. He was raised at an early age to quickly think on his feet in times like these. So, she had to believe that he would be okay. For now, her priority was saving her family.
Inko rushed as fast as her feet could carry her through the woods, ignoring the smokey scent of burning logs and the blazing heat that blasted her from the side. She ran until she came near the spring and took a sudden turn to the left. A few more steps and she was finally there. Inko knelt down on her knees and set Izuku on the ground. She leaned over and grabbed onto what appeared to be a fallen log. Hoisting the log into the air, revealed a small dugout space, just big enough for her and Izuku to climb inside.
"Here, sweetie. Get in, quickly now," Inko said in a hushed whisper.
Izuku nodded, wiping his tears away and tried to be brave for his mama. Climbing down into the dark, dirt-covered hole, Izuku looked back up to see Inko peering off into the distance.
"Mama?" Izuku whispered. Her eyes widened and she turned around, placing a gentle finger against her lips.
"Izuku, baby. I love you so much. Promise me something? Promise me that you won't come out from here, no matter what you hear, okay? Promise me that you'll be quiet and not say a word no matter what happens, okay?"
"Mama?! C - Come down here, mama," Izuku cried loudly. Inko hissed in response, feeling panic begin to set in.
"Promise me, Izuku!" She nearly yelled.
"I - I promise, mama. I promise. I love you, too. I'll be good for you, s - so, please... don't leave me down here all alone!" Izuku said. He crawled up quickly to the top of the hatch and Inko leaned down to place a soft kiss on his forehead.
"I love you, baby. Be safe, stay strong, and live. Live for me, Izuku," she cooed softly, before shoving Izuku back down into the hole so he couldn't try to escape like he had just tried to do.
Izuku landed with a soft thud, watching the hatch close off any and all light. The last thing he saw of his mother before the hatch shut was the most beautiful smile. A smile that was so warm and filled with nothing but undying love for her precious baby boy. A son that she vowed to protect until her very last breath.
Izuku curled up into a ball and pressed his hand tightly over his mouth, doing his best to hide the sobs that rattled through his chest. Staying quiet... like he had promised his mama. He could hear the rustling of footsteps overhead and muffled shouts, but still, he remained where his mother needed him to stay.
A loud thud banged against the hatch overtop, making Izuku squeak in fear. He froze and listened carefully for anything else to happen. He heard nothing else after nearly five minutes and wondered if maybe it was time to come out yet. Slowly, Izuku uncurled himself and stepped closer to where he knew the wall was that he could climb back up. He reached a hand out, feeling around until he touched something warm and wet. Curious, he brought his other hand out and began to rub it down until it came in contact with the substance.
When there was light, he didn't remember seeing any water down there. A soft drip hit him in the face from overhead and his eyes widened in horror at the scent that breached his nasal passages. A scent that was so familiar to him his entire life. One that graced his memories with nothing but happy moments of laughter and warm, soft hugs. A scent that was now tarnished with the foul metallic smell of blood. His mama was injured... badly.
But, again. He knew he needed to be quiet. He wanted to cry out and scream, but he couldn't. He promised her that he wouldn't make a sound. He promised his mama that he would be quiet and wait for her to come and get him. If she was hurt though, what should he do then? Soft tears ran down his cheeks while he cried in silence.
He didn't know anything anymore and his tiny legs began to tremble. Slowly, he sat down against the wall and hugged his knees to his chest for some form of comfort. The dripping blood continued to splash on top of the small greenette, but he made no movement to stop it. Instead, he just squeezed his eyes shut tightly, hoping for the time to pass and the nightmare to come to an end.
Izuku wasn't sure how long it had been since he last opened his eyes, but he was starting to feel extremely cold down in the dankness of the small, enclosed space. The dripping must have stopped at some point and now he felt extremely chilled to the bone. He was covered in mud and what he assumed to be, blood. Shakily, Izuku rose up to his feet and crawled up to the hatch. He figured enough time had managed to pass that he should be allowed to leave now.
He promised his mama that he would wait for her to come back, but he was starting to feel extremely hungry and knew he needed to eat something soon. Slowly, Izuku placed his shaking hands against the hatch and attempted to lift it up, but was stopped by a heavyweight resting on top. Frowning, he struggled against the weight again, trying to push past it, but his feeble toddler arms had next to no strength to them.
On the other side of the door came a rustling sound so Izuku immediately froze. The sound of something being dragged caught his ears and he waited, holding his breath. Slowly, a light began to peer into the darkened hole, making Izuku squint his eyes up at the extremely large man who opened it. This wasn't his mama.
As fast as he could, Izuku darted out past the man and started to run away, hoping not to get caught by the stranger with startling blue eyes and vibrant yellow hair. He ran forward but tripped over something in his path that he hadn't noticed before. He gasped in shock when he recognized the familiar white apron tied around the waist of his mother.
"Mama!" Izuku exclaimed. He shot forward and wrapped his arms around her body, but frowned when she didn't hug him back in response.
"M - Mama?" He questioned. He pulled away to look at her fully for the first time only to feel something inside of him completely shatter.
Laying there, covered in slowly drying blood was his mother. But, no matter how many times he shook her, her chest never moved to take in a breath. The soft pink color of her lips never came forth to replace the cold, frosty blue that paled her skin. Her eyes, which once held a world of love and kindness, were now unwavering and fearful. Unblinking into the unknown horrors that graced her before her fate had fully been sealed.
"Mama! W - Wake up, mama!" Izuku cried helplessly. "Wh - Why won't you wa - wake up!? Open your eyes, mama!"
The weeping greenette all but entirely forgot about the man that had let him out of the hatch down in the ground. He watched the child crying out for the loss of his loved one and his heart felt like it was being torn into shreds. He was too late to save her and now her son was going to suffer.
Suddenly, the sounds that were ripping through the forest from Izuku's horrid nightmare came to an abrupt halt. The man's eyes swiftly flew to where the child was with his mother's body, in fear that something had happened, only to see his body had frozen. The life seemed to be zapped out of his emerald-green eyes and his mouth hung up in a silent scream that wasn't being voiced any longer. Izuku's tiny hands hovered over the gaping wound in Inko's side like he wished he could heal her, but nothing happened.
The man saw tiny green sparks emitting from the child's palms and realized he was trying to use whatever small amount of magic he could to heal the wound in his mother's side. But, since nothing was working... it appeared the child just... broke.
Quickly, the man raced up to the greenette and pulled him into his arms. He silently cursed himself for not removing the child from the scene quicker but seeing him covered in blood before he had even found his mother's corpse sent shivers down the man's spine. He had never seen so much crimson liquid on such a young child before and it made him freeze in his rescue attempt.
"Hush now, child. It's okay, my boy. I'm here, it's okay," the strange man whispered. Izuku, losing himself to his sorrows, caved under the man's warm, comforting embrace and began to cry once more.
"I'm so sorry. I - I didn't get here in time, young one. I'm so sorry," he continued to apologize, letting the regret fill him to the bones while he hugged the soft child.
It had taken him an entire day to come to the village that Katsuki had implored him to get to, but things were hectic on their end, too. He couldn't just up and leave the kingdom unprotected, so the small village that Katsuki so desperately wanted him to go and save... had to wait.
"Toshinori! You have to come with me, right now!" Katsuki yelled when he finally found the heroic knight fighting off assailants valiantly. Katsuki emerged through the portal to see his own home in flames. He rushed passed all the fighting, ignoring the cries and screams of those that reached out to try and stop the young prince.
"Young Bakugou! What are you doing here?!" Toshinori exclaimed. He quickly finished off his attacker and rushed to pick up the small child.
"Hurry! Toshinori, Deku is in trouble!" Katsuki's voice carried over the sounds of metal clashing together, but Toshinori ignored his please for help.
The prince was supposed to be taken to the hidden room for safekeeping. He wasn't supposed to be found in the middle of the battlefield calling for help for whatever friend it was that he was talking about.
"Where are we going?!" Katsuki struggled against Toshinori's powerful grasp but knew it would do him no good.
There was no way he would be able to escape and head back to Izuku now that Toshinori seemed hellbent on keeping him safe. So, his next best bet was to make sure that Toshinori, himself, succeeded in going to his friend's aid.
"Toshinori. My friend is in danger. I meet him through a secret portal in the gardens between the two rose bushes, just past the stone bench. You'll see it. He's through there. Please, save him. Save Deku and his mama. That's an order, old man!" Katsuki yelled.
But, before he could say anymore. Toshinori slapped a large hand across his mouth to silence the blond. He ducked quickly down a different corridor, trying to hide from the assailants and began sprinting at full-speed toward the safe spot. He pressed in the stone brick and tossed the blond quickly inside before turning his back on the closing wall.
"I'll do my best, young Bakugou. But first, your family is in grave danger," Toshinori insisted through the cracks.
"They'll be fine! They're stronger than him! Save Deku! Protect Deku!" Katsuki screamed, hoping his words were reaching his ears.
"I'm sorry, but my duty is to your family. Stay here and don't come out until someone comes to get you. It's not safe. I promise I'll do my best to save you all. I'll do my best, little one."
With that, Toshinori surged through the corridors in search of the King and Queen. But, what he found made his heart sink. He was too late. Their blood had already been spilled across the stone floor of their own throne room. In complete rage and anger, the heroic-knight released a blast of superheated wind with a swift chant. It was so forceful and hot to the skin that it blasted anyone nearby up into the air, only to smash and splatter against the high-vaulted walls. He was getting old and his magic wasn't what it once was, but it was enough to clear the room of all intruders while he made his way to his old friend's sides.
Now was no time for him to grieve though. Now, was time to clear out the pests that invaded and ripped the blissful sense of happiness from the palms of the people that sought peace from this kingdom. After many hours of bloodshed and battle, Toshinori and the other valiant knights were able to dispel the threat. But, at a great cost.
Without taking a moment to rest, Toshinori wearily followed Katsuki's instructions and raced through the garden to find the soft shimmering of the portal that Katsuki had described. Quickly, he activated his magic and jumped through, landing in the cave. From there, he wandered around, following the flowing water until he came across a crystal-clear spring tainted with the strings of crimson liquid that dripped heavily into the still water. That was when he saw Inko's body and heard the soft struggles of Izuku while he desperately tried to get out.
Now, the greenette had fallen silent within the comfort of Toshinori's embrace. Carefully, Toshinori unfurled his arms to release the still-sniffling child. He stared into his bright emerald eyes, shimmering with unshed tears, and made himself a silent vow. He let this child down in several ways and he knew he needed to make it up to him. Right now, there was only one way he could think of.
"My boy, where is the rest of your family? Let's get you home for now, okay?" Toshinori stated calmly.
He didn't know if there were any more of the enemy still lingering somewhere in the shadows or not, so they needed to be cautious. Suddenly, the child gasped loudly and twisted away from his grasp.
"Young man! Come back here!" Toshinori shouted out, but the greenette was just too swift in the familiar territory.
He had no idea where the child was heading, but he did his best to catch up to him. Izuku quickened his pace, doing his best to get to the town and see what may have happened. He hoped that maybe Katsuki had managed to get the help he had promised and that everything was okay. Maybe there was someone there now that could help his mama. Maybe Katsuki could heal her like he had healed him so long ago.
It didn't take him too long to emerge through the forest, but what he saw of the town made him come to a slow walk. He could hear the man behind him still stumbling over logs of various sizes while he struggled to get his larger body through the thicket, but it didn't matter to Izuku. Nothing seemed to matter to him anymore.
His tiny little feet kicked up the ashen-dust that was scattered across the ground. The wind carried away the remnants of past shops and various other buildings. Houses that he once used to look at with envy were now nothing more than crumbled dirt, still smoldering with bits of heated charcoal burning away the remaining pieces. Littering the road were the past lives of those that used to torment him just for existing. Their skin was black and charred, pieces bubbling-up here and there, and everything that would have told Izuku who they were, was entirely gone. They were beyond recognizable now, but he could still tell their identities from the foul stench that poisoned the air.
The stench of burning corpses, burning flesh, and lingering pheromones. The fear, the absolute terror that they felt in their final moments, made Izuku gag and it brought the child to his knees. It coated every surface that still dared to hang on to something, anything. With each step he took, a new wave of dust would be kicked-up, sending more of their terrified aromas into the air and giving way to each soul that passed on. He could smell the baker, the blacksmith, and the farmer. He could smell the seamstress and her two daughters. The smell of so many people experiencing complete horror... the smell of... of Mineta and his posse...
Trembling from the sobs that wracked over his entire body, a daunting realization began to seep in. The realization that Katsuki... never made it in time. There were so many things that could have happened and it terrified Izuku to think about them all. Katsuki could have failed to make it to the cave. He could have fled with no plans to ever return. He could have been a spy. He could have been injured. He could have... been killed.
That last thought shook the greenette to the core, making him muster up the strength to pick up his pace once more and begin surging toward their secret base. Toshinori had just managed to make it out of the thicket when Izuku had taken off again. He was weary and worn down from the continuous hours of physical activity and he didn't think that if there were any more enemies nearby, that he would have the strength to hold them off while simultaneously protecting the child.
With one glance at the surrounding village, Toshinori quickly understood that there was no more family left for the child. Every villager had been stripped from their homes and brutally murdered with no end in sight. The young child had been spared because of the quick thinking from his mother, but that was it. If she hadn't risked her life to save him, then he would have been lost to the flames, as well.
Izuku raced passed the charred remnants of his house without a second glance. He continued onward, hoping, praying to find Katsuki alive in the cave. Waiting for him to come back so they could all practice together. Because there was no way all of this was real. His mama would still be at home making him something to eat for lunch and Katsuki would still be ready to beat some knowledge into his head.
They had to be okay.
They wouldn't leave him behind like this, not if they truly loved him.
Toshinori followed the young child closely, wondering where he was going and thinking that perhaps he knew of another safe haven that the villagers may have used. But, when the cave he first emerged from came into view, Toshinori finally put the pieces together. This was the child that he was supposed to come here and save.
By some strange twist of fate, the 'Deku', as Katsuki had called him, managed to survive the slaughter of the villagers and now, it was up to Toshinori to take the young child under his wing and protect him. As ordered to by his new... King.
"KACCHAN?!" Izuku hollered into the cave's entrance.
Toshinori immediately surged forward and grabbed the child before vaulting them behind a massive boulder. He kept a hand clamped tightly around Izuku's mouth and shook his head fiercely toward the greenette. His shout was still reverberating through the caverns and bouncing back to their ears. It was loud enough to draw in any nearby enemies and that wasn't something he could risk. That portal was just beyond the walls and linked directly to the young King's quarters.
It had to go.
Izuku didn't struggle while they waited in silence. He could tell that the strange man was nervous about being found. The way he was listening intently and the way his eyes would dart around at the simple rustle of leaves in the wind said it all. He was afraid of something and Izuku understood all too well the smell of fear now. It was engraved into his tiny mind and it would stay there for the rest of time.
After nearly half an hour passed with the two of them sitting in silence, Toshinori released his grip on the child.
"Are you the one that my King calls 'Deku'?" He questioned. His voice was barely above a whisper so that Izuku knew to stay quiet.
"Y - You know Kacchan?" Izuku's bottom lip trembled. This was his help. This man was sent here to save them all by Katsuki. He hadn't abandoned Izuku like his mind was starting to tell him. He hadn't. He sent help.
"If your 'Kacchan' is Katsuki Bakugou, then yes, young man. I know your friend. He is safe for now and sent me to come to your aid. But, I failed him. I failed you and for that I am deeply sorry, my child. I will stay by your side to redeem myself. I promise you. But first, I must do something. I must seal that portal in the cave. It is too dangerous and poses a threat to the kingdom."
Toshinori quickly stood up and raced off. He knew his words came to be a shock for the greenette and that he hadn't completely understood what he meant by sealing off the portal. When reality sank in, Izuku jumped to his feet and raced to stop the man, but by the time he caught up, it was too late. He watched the shimmering come to a complete end and fell to his knees in horror.
"No! No, why would you do that?!" Izuku cried.
First, his father had gone missing, never to return. Then, his mother was taken away from him and he would never get to see her bright smile ever again. And now this? Now his best friend? Now the only other person left in the world that he loved with all his tiny heart? This was too much. Too much for little Izuku to handle. He was entirely alone in the world now and there was nothing he could do to fix things anymore. His peaceful life had been completely shattered in a single go.
Toshinori turned around to see the broken and distraught expression on the greenette's face and made one last final decision. He knew the young child wouldn't be able to live a happy life after everything he had witnessed. He knew that he needed to clean up his mess after having failed the poor child so miserably.
"No! Bring him back! I - I didn't... I didn't even get to say goodbye!" His sobs echoed through the cave and Toshinori reached down, wiping the tears from the child's face.
"Young one. Tell me, what is your name?" Toshinori questioned softly.
He let Izuku cry his little heart out for what felt like years. Each desperate sob stabbed him in the heart, but it was a pain that he was willing to endure for the child he had failed.
"I - Izuku Midoriya," Izuku sniffled softly.
"What was your mother's name?" Toshinori continued. Again, he had to wait for the silence to come. The mere mention of his mother sent his cries into full throttle.
"Ink - Inko Midoriya," he finally managed.
"Do you have any other friends or relatives?"
"No. It was... It was just us an - and Kacchan is my only f - friend," Izuku admitted shyly.
"Age? Birthday?" He asked another question. Izuku wondered what the point was, but answered him anyway.
"I'm f - four and mid-summer?" He answered.
His head was pounding from the constant pain of sorrow that racked over his body. His eyes burned and his throat was dry and hoarse. His tiny limbs felt weak and his stomach growled hungrily. All he wanted to do now was to lay down and sleep the pain away.
Toshinori nodded gently and raised his hand above the greenette's soft little curls.
"Then, forgive me for what I'm about to do. I promise, Izuku Midoriya, that it is for your own good." A warm yellow light flashed through the cave, momentarily blinding Izuku. He squinted his eyes closed and when he opened them, he was confused.
"W - Who are you?" He questioned the stranger. His little eyes searched his surroundings and he recognized nothing. Where was he?
"My name is Toshinori, Izuku Midoriya. I am here to be your guardian. Are you hungry?" He asked the small child.
"Yeah, I'm very hungry," he smiled up at the man and reached out to take his guardian's hand.
"What's a Toshinori?" Izuku asked.
"That's what I am called. Just like you are called Izuku Midoriya." It hurt Toshinori to have to explain to the child what his own name was after only hearing it mere moments ago.
"I am Izuku Midoriya?" He tilted his head to the side and giggled happily. It had a certain ring to it that he liked and he decided that he would keep the name. Izuku Midoriya. Yes, that's who he will be.
"Then, where are we?" He continued to pester. Toshinori pondered for a moment on how to answer his curiosity.
"We are at the cave of 'The Beginning to the End'," he decided.
Because that's exactly what this turned out to be. The beginning to the end of Izuku's past life. He didn't know it then, but the moment he had met Katsuki was the moment that his life would be thrown into a perpetual spiral downwards, forcing their two souls to collide for all eternity.
"That sounds weird," Izuku chuckled and followed the man out to start his new life without even knowing what he was leaving behind.
Eleven Years Later
"Izuku, my boy! Slow down! I'm not as fast as I once was, you know!" Toshinori shouted to the greenette.
He had taken Izuku away from the pain and suffering that he had experienced when he was a child and they started their own lives together, deep in the mountains. He took it upon himself to train Izuku to become his successor. He built up his agility, his knowledge and ability to harness magic. He trained in combat and survival skills. He made sure the boy lived a happy life with him, but... it was a lonely life. There was no village in sight for miles on end and they lived off the land, never coming in contact with other people.
Toshinori wondered what type of effect this would have on Izuku while growing up and he knew he needed to bring him to meet others soon. Otherwise, he would have an extremely skilled hermit on his hands. The retired heroic-knight chuckled at the thought.
That was exactly why he had told Izuku to pack up his belongings a week ago and bid farewell to the home they had known for the past eleven years. Despite being down in the dumps, like Toshinori had expected, Izuku seemed to be thrilled at the prospect of going somewhere where there were other people. He had read about them in the many books at his disposal and couldn't wait to meet them. It was hard for Izuku to give up the life he had led with Toshinori, but there was a whole world out there just waiting for him to explore.
"I'm sorry, Toshinori! I'm just excited, I guess," Izuku exclaimed happily.
He stopped swinging his legs and hopped down from the tree branch he had been sitting on to wait for Toshinori to catch up. Ever since the older man had passed his mark on to Izuku, his strength had slowly been fading and he knew it was only a matter of time before he was no longer a part of the world.
"It's alright, my boy. Izuku, we are almost there and there's something I need to discuss with you before we arrive. There is a small lake just up ahead. Let's stop there for a break, okay?" Toshinori suggested.
"Do you want me to carry you on my back?" Izuku questioned.
Hating the feeling of being old, Toshinori surged forward with newfound strength and Izuku just chuckled in response. He gripped tightly onto the straps of his yellow backpack and proceeded behind the man. They walked at a steady pace until the lake came into view. Izuku dashed toward the glistening water in complete awe. From what he could remember, he had never seen water so still like this was. They would always catch salmon in the raging rivers that raced down the mountainside. He wasn't used to this type of tranquil peace.
"Wow! This is incredible! Do you see that, Toshinori? It's barely even moving? I wonder if there are any fish inside? How do they survive in the frost when the ice forms over the top? Does it go all the way down? What about overpopulating? I'm sure there has to be some way for the fish to join the earth again, otherwis - "
"Izuku, you're mumbling again," Toshinori warned.
It had become a habit of Izuku's over the years. He wondered if it had anything to do with his deep desire for other types of human contact, so he would catch himself speaking out loud in hopes that maybe one day someone would respond.
"Ah! Sorry about that. There's a log over here. Do you want to rest there?" Izuku questioned. Toshinori nodded and they made their way to sit down on the fallen tree, overlooking the smooth crystal lake before them.
"First, Izuku, there's something I must confess to you," Toshinori began. Izuku tilted his head to the side but didn't interrupt. He could tell that whatever this was, it was going to be serious.
"I found you a long time ago. I told you this. But, what I failed to tell you was how I found you and now that you're older... I think it's time for you to know the full truth."
Toshinori recounted the tale to Izuku, slowly watching the concern make its way up to the greenette's eyes. He shook his head in disbelief, saddened by the news of his mother's passing so many years ago. He remembered going to bury a body with Toshinori before they left the ashen-town behind, but he never understood who that woman was. Now, he knew. Toshinori, even though Izuku had lost his memories, made sure to give his mother the burial she deserved and that made him equally sad and happy.
"I - I don't know where to begin," Izuku stuttered softly. "Uhm, I can actually understand wh - why you took my memories away from me. You wanted me to live a normal life, I get that. But, do you think that now... I can have them back somehow?"
"You will get them back, my boy. It'll take a long time, but once you have reached your eighteenth summer here on Earth, they will begin to return. They'll be fuzzy at first, but it will come back to you. I could never make something like that permanent unless you wanted me to. I wouldn't take away the happy days you spent with your family. You deserve those. I just wanted you to be able to live peacefully before the nightmares begin," Toshinori whispered softly.
"There's something else, isn't there?" Izuku asked.
"Yes. My time in this world is ending, son. I am bringing you to - "
"NO!" Izuku protested, cutting him off. He didn't want to hear what his next words were going to be.
"Izuku, listen to me, please. I don't want to regret never speaking to you like this. Please, for me," Toshinori begged. Tears welled up in both their eyes while Izuku clenched his jaw shut tight to bear with what he was going to be told.
"I am bringing you to your new home, Izuku. There is something that I must do before I pass on. There is someone that I must go protect. I have neglected this person for the past eleven years and, instead, spent that time trying to redeem myself in your eyes. I love you like you were my own son, but I need to make sure this other person is safe. I must leave this world with no heaviness left on my soul."
Izuku's bottom lip trembled when he listened to the request that Toshinori was giving him. He didn't want to lose him in his life. He didn't want to lose anyone else ever again. He may not have the memories anymore, but there was something deep inside of him that screamed to hold on to those that he loved tightly.
Izuku reached out and embraced the older man into a solid, warm hug. It was all that he could do to stop the tears from flowing down his cheeks steadily. They were saying goodbye, he could feel it, and he didn't know if they would ever meet each other again.
"You'll come with me to settle in first, right?" Izuku whispered softly.
"Of course, my boy. I'll stay with you for one last week but then, I must be off." Toshinori pulled away and dried off his tears. "They are good people, Izuku Midoriya. They'll treat you right, I promise."
"Okay, I trust you. So, what are we waiting for, then? Let's go see my new home."