The feeling of being out of place persists all through the day and into that first night. They make camp as the sun is beginning to set, Katsuki and Iida deftly clearing an area for them and then building a small fire. Uraraka shares some of the jerky she’s been carrying so that they don’t go to sleep with empty stomachs.
Katsuki watches the sky for a long time until it’s too dark for even him to be able to make out anything past the shifting tree branches. Then he shrugs off his cloak, tossing it to Izuku, and lays out in the dirt with his arms behind his head like he isn’t a prince at all. Like sleeping on the ground comes more naturally than in a castle.
Izuku watches him for a moment, pulling the cloak tighter around himself. It’s warm from Katsuki’s higher body temperature and smells of spice and smoke. He’s not sure when Katsuki’s scent started to bring him comfort but it does.
The fire dwindles lower until Iida adds a few more dry branches to it and then lays down to sleep as well. It leaves Izuku and Uraraka as the only two awake, though Izuku is too lost in his own thoughts to notice her much.
He doesn’t fit in with this group, which isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is that they’re continuing to drag him along on this adventure. He wants to help, he does, but he can’t fly, his powers are certainly not mastered, and he has no fighting experience nor training. What good is he to them at all?
His gaze keeps straying back to Katsuki despite his thoughts. The light of the fire is dim but it plays over his features, warming pale skin and glinting off the scales that dot his face and arms. He hadn’t even bothered to take what little armor he’s wearing off. Not that the leather seems to be impeding him much as deep and steady as his breathing is. His sword also lays close to hand, like he’s expecting to be attacked in the middle of the night.
Izuku isn’t sure why he’s here exactly or how he can help. But he can’t be too upset about his position. If there’s anything at all he can do to help Katsuki’s quest, to help Katsuki, well…
With a faint sigh Izuku finally tears his gaze away, only to meet Uraraka’s from across the fire. She’s been watching him for a while apparently, the flames dancing in her brown eyes.
Silently she jerks her head towards the forest. When he only stares she does it again then climbs to her feet, disappearing into the trees in the direction she’d indicated. Izuku glances back at Katsuki’s slumbering form. If he were to wake and find both Uraraka and Izuku gone…
Curiosity wins in the end and Izuku sneaks out of their makeshift camp as quietly as he can, Katsuki’s cloak still wrapped tight around his shoulders.
Uraraka hasn’t gone far thankfully. She’s perched on the edge of a downed tree, just barely visible in the dark of the forest. It’s teeming with the calls and rustling of insects and other nightlife, moonlight slipping between leaves highlighting brief flashes of a shiny carapace or a glint of eyes.
“We need to talk,” she starts, voice carrying easily in the dark.
“Is it so serious we can’t do it at the fire?” Izuku asks.
“Yes.” Her voice is hard, sure. “Trust me, I…I don’t think you’re going to want your companions to hear this.”
Tentatively, Izuku approaches the fallen tree before copying Uraraka’s pose, perching on the edge of it. The tumult in his stomach is telling him he’ll likely need to be sitting for this conversation.
“Okay. I’m listening.”
Uraraka takes a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “I wasn’t completely honest before. That is, I didn’t tell you the full story of the demon. The tengu.”
“And what you didn’t tell us…somehow involves me?” Izuku asks, dread filling him.
The demon hunter bites her lip but nods before launching into her tale. “The god of that village, the one who died? She passed maybe a century ago, probably a little over. Rumor is that the tengu didn’t go after the jewel at first. Instead, he started travelling out to other nearby villages. The rumors never said why exactly. But they did make it clear that in his travels he found a…a mate, so to speak. After the jewel corrupted him, he abandoned her.”
She pauses, looking at him seriously like he should be finding some special meaning in her words. Izuku just shuffles deeper into Katsuki’s cloak, pulling part of it up over the lower half of his face so that he can breathe in the scent that clings to it.
“She was a human woman,” Uraraka says, still eyeing him carefully. “A priestess.”
Everything in Izuku stills for a long, long moment. It feels like the entire forest is holding it’s breath, insects and animals alike falling silent in the tension. Finally Izuku lets out a shaky breath against the cloak, the heat of it trapped against his mouth and face.
“You think I’m-” his voice cracks and he has to clear his throat to try again. “You think that he’s- that I’m. Related. That he’s my father?”
“How old are you, Izuku?” Uraraka asks him gently.
He doesn’t know the exact years, never bothered to keep track after a certain point. “A little over a century,” he murmurs. She nods, like she was expecting the answer.
“A little over a century ago, a god perished, and her faithful servant started to stray. He took a human mate. And now I sit, speaking with a half-demon over a century old, with black feathered wings like those of a tengu.” She pauses, lets the words sink in for a moment. “Was your mother a priestess, Izuku?”
“Yes,” he answers faintly.
Tentatively, Uraraka reaches out and places a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It doesn’t have to mean anything, if you don’t want it to. But I thought you would probably want to know. Before we found him.”
Izuku licks his lips, thoughts whirling. “Do you think he knows? About me?”
“I couldn’t say. Maybe it’s not even true. But…it seems pretty likely. I wouldn’t have told you otherwise.”
“Right,” he says with a little nod. His voice sounds distant even to his own ears.
Uraraka’s expression softens and she leans into him, just a little. “Do you want to be alone? Or I could…I don’t know, just sit here with you for a bit.”
“I think I need some time to process,” he says faintly, and she murmurs her assent before finding her feet. She pauses just before disappearing again, headed back to camp.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I had to tell you like this. But at least it’s better than finding out from him, or after the fact. Remember what I said about your companions though. I don’t know them very well, but I can’t see them reacting well to this.”
And then she’s gone.
Izuku breathes out shakily again and then buries his face completely in Katsuki’s cloak. It doesn’t feel quite as warm anymore, or as safe.
He’d asked about his feather as a child, because of course he had. Knowing he was half-demon he’d wanted to know where he’d inherited that from, who he could possibly grow up to be like.
But his mother, always cheerful, always loving, had gently steered him from the topic as best she could. She’d never seemed upset or concerned, at least not when Izuku was looking. But he’d caught her a few times after he’d asked once again, a pensive frown on her lips and her brow drawn low. He’d stopped asking after that.
Now he wishes he’d pushed just a little harder, or maybe even asked the priests at the temple about it. He’s sure they would have been more than happy to tell him about his sire. The demon who Izuku would inevitably grow to be just like, because in their eyes he would never be able to tame his demon side. Be anything more than a tragedy waiting to happen.
What is he even supposed to do with this information now that he has it? Does it change anything? It can’t, not if his father -no, his sire there is no familial bond there- if his sire is out killing others to amass more power. He’s dangerous and a threat which means he has to be dealt with.
Uraraka’s parting words ring his ears. Does he tell Katsuki? The others? Will they think less of him if he does? Surely not. It’s not like he can control who sired him. But then, nobody has cared about that in the past. He was half-demon and therefore he could not be trusted, no matter that he had no choice in the matter.
Izuku sighs and drops the cloak from his face, breathing in cool, fresh air. It helps to clear his head a little. No, he won’t mention it to them. It shouldn’t be relevant. They’ll find the demon, they’ll deal with him, and then the matter will be done. He probably doesn’t even know of Izuku’s existence.
Finally feeling the weight of the day catch up with him, Izuku sways where he sits in exhaustion. It takes everything he has to make it back to camp and curl up on the hard earth before he passes out.
Izuku is roused the next morning by a hand carding through his hair. His body is sore all over, especially the muscles around his wings. Probably from the free fall he took. He groans and rubs his face against his pillow before abruptly remembering he’d fallen asleep on the ground.
Jerking his head up, he’s greeted with an amused red gaze. His head is pillowed on Katsuki’s chest, and at some point during the night he’d managed to sprawl across the demon somehow. Katsuki’s fingers are carding through his hair, and when he speaks his voice is low and sleep gruff.
“As much as I’m enjoying this, I need to get up.”
Izuku feels his cheeks heat and hastily moves away from the demon, wincing as he does so. Katsuki sits up after him, stretching lazily.
The fire has gone out, the pit long cold now, and Iida and Uraraka are still sound asleep. Above them the sky is soft and grey but not yet bright, the sun approaching the horizon but not cresting it.
Katsuki frowns up at the sky before levering himself to his feet. “They should be back by now.”
“It’s not quite dawn yet, give them some time,” Izuku murmurs in response.
Katsuki grumbles but goes to wake the others. There’s not much for them to gather since they hadn’t had any packs in the fire place, but Katsuki scatters the ashes of their fire so it can’t catch again, and reattaches his sword to his hip.
Once everyone is awake and moving they head back to the trail. Sunlight is just starting to filter through the forest when Katsuki glances up and mutters, “Finally.” Izuku looks up trying to see what he’s seeing, but his vision isn’t quite good enough to make out more than a distant speck in the sky.
Katsuki’s gaze narrows though. “There’s only one. Kirishima. Where’s Kaminari?”
“Perhaps he was waylaid?” Iida suggests, also apparently able to see the distant dragon approaching. “The council could have insisted he stay for one reason or another.”
The response garners only a grunt from Katsuki and the group falls into uneasy silence as they way impatiently for Kirishima to reach them. A few minutes later they can hear wing beats and a few minutes after that comes the telltale rumble and thump of a large beast touching down. Kirishima comes rushing through the underbrush not long after, out of breath and red in the face.
“Where’s Kaminari? What happened?” Katsuki snaps.
Kirishima sketches a half bow, perfunctory. “He had to stay behind,” he gasps. “We did as you said, returned to the castle and gathered supplies. The council was a pain but we eventually got away. But on our return trip we saw one of those barriers being erected. It’s around a village not far from the castle. Due east.”
Katsuki’s gaze cuts immediately over to Izuku. The only village east of the mountain that Izuku is familiar with is his own. The one he grew up in. The one he was tossed from.
“Kaminari landed and shifted to do some reconnaissance-” Kirishima continues.
“Alone?” Katsuki snarls, cutting him off and whirling on the other dragon. “Idiot! We were moving in a group for a reason.” He shakes his head, tense all over and radiating anger. “We have to go. Now. There’s no time for walking. Izuku, with me.”