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feather of the harbinger

Chapter Text

A root catches against Izuku’s ankle and the young boy goes sprawling with a pained cry. He lays there on the forest floor, panting, trembling, tears slipping hot and sticky down his face in a constant stream.


His entire body hurts. Every single part of him, inside and out, is in aching, horrible, unrelenting pain. Like he’s being skewered through, everywhere, all at once. Each individual part of him picked apart bit by bit and tossed aside.


Even worse is the memory of hands on him, grabbing, grasping, holding him down. Men and women he’s known his entire life. Men and women who he’d thought were his friends, who smile at him and his mom every single day, who welcome Izuku to the temple and cook for him and teach him and-


And this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.


The memories are distant, fuzzy with time and age, but they still exist. He knows what happened. They’d held him down then too, told him that he wasn’t right, needed to fixed, that his insides were wrong and bad if he stayed that way he’d hurt all the people around him.


The same words had spilled from them this time too, years later.


“You’re killing your mother.”


“There’s evil inside you.”


“We just want to help.”


But their chants and harsh hands hadn’t felt like helping. The holy water they’d splashed on his skin certainly hadn’t either. His arms and chest are blistered and painful, bright, burning red, pulsing in time with his crying.


Izuku picks himself up off the ground, rubbing ineffectively at his face. The forest is quiet around him, his wailing having already scared off all the wildlife.


Not that they would have come around anyways, even if he was perfectly quiet and still. Because animals know better than to approach a demon.


The priests are right about Izuku, and he hates it. He’s old enough now to understand what being half demon means; that part of him is tainted, evil, dirty. His mom says he’s good, that having demon blood doesn’t make him bad. But how can he believe her when he only hears awful things about demons? Terrible, horrible stories about how they kill and eat people.


There’s a whole kingdom of dragon demons not far from their village, and new stories come every single day about the awful things they do.


They scare people, and hurt them, and are very, very cruel.


And Izuku is just like them.


He wishes the chants the priests use didn’t hurt so bad, because maybe then he could be purified. But the chants do hurt. They hurt so bad he thought he was going to die, and so he’d run away. If he’d stayed though, they might have been able to get all the evil out of him.


Mom says it’s not possible, that trying to purify Izuku would just kill him. And it definitely felt that way. But he still wishes.


Izuku stumbles on a root again but manages to keep his balance. He’s not sure where he’s going exactly except away. Away from the priests and their hands and words that hurt, and his mother who says everything is okay and good when it’s clearly not.


He can hear the sound of running water in the distance so he redirects his course towards it. The river goes straight through the middle of the village, and he’s seen kids playing on it’s banks. Izuku has always wanted to play with them. But his mother keeps him close and when he stares at the children they glare at him or point or run to their own mothers, who shield them with their bodies.


The bank is rocky and smooth when he finds it, the water smooth and rushing. He knows he can’t swim in it, that the current will wash him away if he tried, but he stands in the shallows, water rushing all around his ankles, and enjoys the chill on skin that feels feverish and hot. If the priests purified the whole, entire river, and he dunked himself under the choppy waves, would it be enough to make him good?


His feet are starting to go numb when he hears the snapping of twigs and underbrush. Izuku whirls, worried that maybe someone has come after him. But the person that emerges from the trees isn’t one Izuku has ever seen before.


In fact…he’s not a person at all.


Glowing red eyes regard Izuku warily, fingers tipped in dangerous looking claws twitching at his sides. There are gleaming gold scales scattered up the side of his face, disappearing into a mess of wild, ash-blonde hair and his feet…his feet aren’t human at all but huge and animal. Draconic.


A demon.


He can’t be much older than Izuku himself but he’s so…different. Dangerous. He tips his head back and sniffs at the air, mouth open like the temple’s cat when she’s on a hunt. It’s animalistic and wild and Izuku trembles where he stands because this is it, right? Demons are evil and bad. Izuku is evil and bad. So this demon boy will kill him.


But then the demon cocks his head to the side and wrinkles his nose, the expression startlingly human. “You smell bad,” he says, and though his voice has a primitive growl to it, it still sounds young and boyish.


“What?” Izuku says dumbly, and then, “No I don’t!”


“You do,” the boy insists. “Why are you so smelly? You stink like humans, ugh.”


Of course I do! Izuku wants to say, but doesn’t get the chance. The demon is suddenly moving towards him, wincing as he steps into the cool, swirling water.


“What happened to your arms?” he asks, reaching rudely for Izuku and grabbing the half-human’s wrist. It makes Izuku’s robes, open and torn from where the priests grabbed him, flutter around his chest. There are purpling bruises all up his sides and more splashes of holy water across the olive skin, especially right over his heart.


“Holy shit,” the demon hisses.


Izuku gasps. “That’s a bad word! You can’t say that.” Then winces because the boy is a demon. He’s evil. He may look like kind of like a human, like Izuku, but obviously he’s not going to care about things like bad words.


The demon makes a disgusted face at him. “I can say what I want!” he snaps, then tugs on Izuku’s wrist. “Why aren’t you healing? That looks like it hurt. Did some humans get a hold of you?”


Izuku tugs at the hold the other boy has on him, but can’t break it. Why isn’t the demon hurting him? They’re supposed to be bad and evil! Everything about Izuku hurts right now and he’s scared and confused and his face itches with drying tears. He can feel more prickling at his eyes. “Why do you care?” he manages.


The boy snorts loudly. “I don’t, but you’re too pathetic to ignore.”


Izuku sniffles loudly. “T-that’s mean.”


With a dramatic roll of his eyes, the demon pulls Izuku roughly back up onto the bank and out of the water. Then he shoves Izuku down until he’s sitting, staring up at the demon with wide, tear-filled eyes. “Don’t look at me like that,” the demon snaps, and crouches down in front of Izuku. “I’m trying to help you out here.” He fumbles at the waist of his robes for a moment and pulls a small container off of his belt. “Give me your arm.”


Izuku holds out his arm tentatively and, as he watches the demon open the container to reveal a rich, green scented cream, he decides that the other boy is very, very strange. Isn’t he supposed to be scary and mean? His fingers are tipped in sharp, dangerous looking claws, but his hands are gentle as he smears the cream on Izuku’s burns. The demon’s skin is incredibly hot compared to Izuku’s own and the cream wonderfully cool. It eases the pain of his body and Izuku can’t help the way his shoulders sag or how his eyes prickle again, this time with relief.


“Thanks,” he says quietly.


The demon glances up, his face incredibly close. His eyes are an even brighter from this distance, crimson like the sun as it’s setting, like blood. His pupils are dark and slitted, reptilian, and when he opens his mouth Izuku can’t help but notice that his teeth are sharp and jagged.


“Give me your other arm,” is all he says.


Izuku obeys and sighs again as the cream touches heated, inflamed flesh.


They sit in silence as the demon carefully applies the salve to every burn on Izuku’s body, and Izuku obligingly moves and bends to give him access to do so. When the demon finally sits back there’s a furrow in his brow. “Did somebody try to kill you or what?”


Izuku traces the shape of a hand imprinted on his side. “Sorta.”


The demon bares his teeth, dangerous, an inhuman growl rising low in his throat. “Fuckers,” he hisses, and the heat of the word is tangible in the air between them. Can dragon demons breathe fire? “Who do they think they are? Even I can see you’re fucking harmless but they thought they needed to hurt you, just because you’re a demon?”


Izuku sucks in a noisy breath. “But…but demons are bad,” he tries, voice coming out soft. They are, right? And that’s why the priests did what they did. They just wanted to help him not be bad.


“Says who?” demands the demon. “We’re not all the same, you know!”


“But the priests-”


Priests,” the demon hisses, eyes visibly flashing. “No wonder you look like shit. They probably tried to purify you or something, right?”


Izuku can only nod and the demon bares his teeth again, all animal. “If they touch you again you come find me and I’ll take care of them. I’ll protect you!” His chin juts confidentantly and his chest puffs up as he declares again, “Yeah, I’ll keep you safe! I promise.”


Izuku blinks, lost and confused. Aside from his mother nobody has ever made a promise like that to him. It feels…nice.


“Why?” he can’t help but ask.


The demon rolls his eyes dramatically. “Because you’re weak and you need protecting, duh. And I’m strong so I can keep you safe!”


Someone to keep him safe, and to stop the priest from hurting him again… “Okay,” Izuku agrees, unable to help a small smile. “But you can’t hurt them, okay? They’re nice. Sometimes.”


The boy gives him a dubious look but scoffs, “Whatever.” His mouth is opening again to say something else, but then his head jerks up, gaze fixed on the forest over Izuku’s shoulder.


A second later, Izuku hears it too. The sound of someone walking through the underbrush and calling Izuku’s name. His mother.


The demon hisses, eyes narrowing. “Human,” he says, spitting the word out like it’s disgusting.


Izuku scrambles to his feet and glances between the boy and where he can hear his mother getting closer. He can’t let her see him. She says Izuku isn’t bad just because he’s part demon, but what will she say if she finds out he made a demon friend?


“You should go,” Izuku says quickly, and the demon stares at him, confused.


“What about you?”


“I know her, it’s okay.”


The demon eyes him warily but then seems to shrug it off. “Fine. But come back here tomorrow okay? I promised to protect you and I don’t break promises.” He hold out his hand, one pinky extended, and Izuku bites his lip as he hooks his own pinky with it. They shake and Izuku turns, his mother’s voice clear over the sound of the river now.


But he pauses, turns back to where the demon is still standing on the bank, staring at him.


“What’s your name?” Izuku whispers, not wanting his mother to hear him.


Red eyes flash and the demon’s mouth twists. “Call me Kacchan.”

Chapter Text

Like most mornings, Izuku wakes slowly just as dawn begins to touch the edge of the horizon, hidden by mountains to the East but felt in the subtle shifting of the air.


Like most mornings, Izuku slides off of his mat and then goes about the quiet, familiar practice of folding it and setting it against the wall. So familiar that he can manage it in the dark before dawn. He dresses in the dark as well.


Like most mornings, Izuku eats a quick breakfast on the front step of his house, listening quietly as the forest to the East slowly starts to wake.


This has been his routine for seventy odd years now. It rarely changes.


When the sun has finally started to make its appearance, Izuku heads to his garden out behind the house. He grows most of his food and herbs himself and what he can’t grow or build he has to walk over a day to trade for. There is, of course, the village he was born in raised in only ten minutes away, easily accessible by the road just out of sight of his home. But very few are willing to trade with him there, and the ones who are will take him for all he’s worth if he lets them. He had hoped that maybe, with a new generation of villagers, their fear and hatred of him would abate. But it had only gotten worse.


Truthfully Izuku can’t really blame them. He may only be half demon but that vile blood still runs through his veins, still makes him untrustworthy to most. The death of his mother had seen him chased almost completely out of the village, banned from even stepping foot on the grounds of the temple where she’d been head priestess. Where he’d grown up.


So he lives alone, not visible from the main road in and out of the village, and tends to his garden day in and day out. He works on his home and travels when he can, though never for very long, and studies the few books of his mother’s that he’d managed to keep after her death. There’s so much she was never able to teach him; about holy magic, about the world, about her, and about himself.


Izuku wouldn’t consider himself truly happy. He’s not sure he ever will be thanks to his nature. But he is content. And that’s enough for him.


Around midday Izuku stands from where he’d been kneeling in the garden and ineffectively wipes his dirty hands on his robe. The taro plants have started to sprout nicely, but the number of weeds has increased thanks to the rain and pulling them all without damaging his vegetables is a tiring chore. He arches his back and stretches, wincing at the twinge of pain that shoots down his spine. It’s the same spot that’s been bothering him as of late; twin points of tension and soreness right between his shoulder blades. The location is awkward enough to make applying a salve difficult, and nothing has seemed to work particularly well anyways.


Perhaps his human side is aging him faster than the demon side can keep up with.


With another stretch and a groan, he goes to wash his hands and prepare a light lunch for himself. Afterwards there should be enough light for him to sit outside and read the book he’d gotten from a travelling trader last week. His collection has been growing steadily for years now, something he’s quite pleased about. He had to take up woodwork so he could make shelves and trunks to store them all properly.


He hasn’t even worked all the dirt out from under his nails when he hears the sound of someone coming down the road from the direction of the village. The sandals the priests wear have a particular sound and tread to them, and there’s only one priest who would walk all the way out here to see Izuku.


There hasn’t been a head priestess at the temple since Inko died, but Tanaka has become something of a head priest in her place. He’s old, old enough to remember the days when Izuku was, begrudgingly, accepted at the temple. Old enough to have participated the last time the priests tried to exorcise him, not even five minutes after his mother had finally passed on.


Tanaka has never particularly liked Izuku, and Izuku can say the feeling is mutual to a degree. But because they have a bit of history, Tanaka is always the one to make contact with Izuku.


Occasionally, lesser demons wander into the village, and if the priests don’t feel like dealing with them, or they’re particularly dangerous, they call on Izuku to deal with the situation. Because Izuku’s life isn’t as important as those of the priests. Because he owes it to the village anyways. Because at the very least, he can make himself somewhat useful to them. To thank them for the kindness of not chasing him off completely or outright killing him.


Izuku finishes cleaning his hands and dries them before coming around the house to wait for Tanaka out front. His hearing picked up the priest coming from a ways away but Tanaka appears through the trees before long, his form thin and pale and serious in his priest robes. He doesn’t even get close enough to speak, just gestures for Izuku to follow him and turns around again.


Izuku sighs but follows obediently. What else is he supposed to do? He may not like the treatment he receives, may be frustrated and upset with all the animosity directed at him, but at the end of the day he can’t blame them for it. So he catches up to Tanaka on the main road, falling into step beside him, and allows himself to be lead back to the village.


Only when they’re almost upon it does Tanaka speak.


“We might be calling on you quite often over the next few weeks,” he says, rubbing at the wisps of his grey beard.


“Why’s that?” Izuku asks curiously. Only something serious would force the priests to seek him out so frequently.


Tanaka sighs, like he’s being forced to explain something simple to a not particularly bright child. “There are rumors that the demon prince Katsuki has returned to the territory. It’s throwing the rest of the demons into a frenzy, and we’ve already had to deal with a few wandering into the village. We think it’ll only get worse before it gets better and the temple does not have the time or resources to deal with this nuisance.”


Which means it’s all going to be shoved off on Izuku. Funny how a village afraid of him often expects Izuku to protect them from harm. From beings quite similar to himself, even.


“Katsuki,” Izuku murmurs, wracking his brain to try and remember the name. It surfaces after a moment, mentions of the dragon clan that lives on the closest mountain. There was a king and a queen who ruled there when Izuku was a child, but they had gone north, to a different dragon clan, and had taken their young son with them. At the time there was fear that there would be a power vacuum left in their wake that would end with highly destructive fights among the demons, but nothing like that ever happened.


Now the young prince is back, sans king and queen. To take the throne, perhaps?


When they reach the village, all is quiet and still. The slap of their sandals against the packed dirt of the road is the only sound until the afternoon is broken by a deep, guttural yell.


“It is not a lesser demon,” Tanaka says unnecessarily. “But it is injured. Kill it, chase it off, we don’t care, just get rid of it.”


They round a corner, coming into the main square of the village where, even at midday, people congregate to enjoy company. But it’s empty now except for a long figure, stumbling through the dirt. There’s a trail of blood behind him, showing the path he’s walked, and a large smear that looks like maybe he fell and had to drag himself back to his feet.


It’s been years. Over a hundred at the very least, though Izuku’s never been very good at keeping track of them. But Izuku would recognize his childhood friend even a thousand years from now, when his memory is blurred with time and age.


His hair is longer, form larger and sturdier than when they were kids, which is to be expected. His travelling clothes are ripped at the shoulder and side, pale, bloody skin visible underneath, one clawed hand gripping tight at his ribs like he can somehow hold himself together that way. The red-gold scales of his draconic feet and lower legs are smeared with dirt and dried blood. Even from a distance Izuku can see the glint of gritted, razor sharp teeth.




Izuku must make a hurt noise because Tanaka huffs loudly beside him.


“Yes, quite injured,” the priest says, sounding pleased. “Shouldn’t be a problem at all. I’ll leave it to you, demon.”


“Hey!” Kacchan shouts suddenly, jerking to a wavering stop, swaying where he stands. His face is pointed in their direction but his gaze is unfocused, breathing shallow. “I can hear you fuckers! Where the fuck is he, huh? You shits hiding him!?”


Tanaka curls his lip in disgust. “Deal with it,” is all he says before he turns on his heel and walks away, clearly washing his hands of the situation.


“Oye, don’t walk away fucker, I’m talking to you!”


Izuku has no idea who Kacchan is looking for and accusing them of hiding, but he does know he needs to get the demon out of here before the villagers decide to take matters into their own hands. Before he can figure out the best way to approach though, Kacchan takes a single, wobbling step forward and then goes down hard onto one knee. He claws at the dirt with the hand not held to his ribs, visibly trying to push himself back to his feet, but collapses a moment later.


It’s only through sheer force of will that Izuku doesn’t scream his name. Though the street is empty he knows that there are eyes on them, and he doesn’t need the village knowing of his and Kacchan’s history. Instead, he runs to the demon’s side, doing a quick check to make sure he’s not dead or on the verge of it. Thankfully he just seems exhausted and is probably suffering the effects of blood loss. Izuku breathes out shakily in relief.


It’s a struggle to pick Kacchan up and get him settled on Izuku’s back, but he manages. Were he completely human, Izuku wouldn’t make it more than a few steps with Kacchan’s weight pressing him down. But he’s not completely human and once he’s adjusted the demon’s weight, he sets off for his home with minimal fuss. He winces when he realizes he can feel blood setting into his robes. They leave a trail of it in the dust behind them.


By the time Izuku gets Kacchan settled on his tatami mat, cleaned up, bandaged properly, and changed into some of Izuku’s spare clothing, the sun is starting to set. He lights a lantern and sets it on the floor next to the sleeping demon, giving him another one-over.


His breathing has settled into something rhythmic and deep, which is a good sign, and Izuku’s efforts seem to have stopped most of the bleeding. The worst of the wounds are several deep gouges on his side along and under his ribs. They look undeniably like the work of another demon’s claws. Who was Kacchan fighting and why?


Izuku sighs and gently brushes blonde hair out of the demon’s face, fingers trailing along the sharp edge of his cheekbone, his jaw. Gently touching the golden scales perfectly melded into his pale skin.


Over a hundred years. Why did Kacchan disappear like he did?


Izuku thinks of the demon as his childhood friend, but the truth of the matter is that there’s a good chance Kacchan won’t remember him at all. They only met four times after all, out in the forest beyond the temple. But it’s not like Izuku has anyone else he could, or can, call a friend, and so the memories of those meetings are dear to him.


Even more precious is the promise Kacchan made to him. For a little while, Izuku was actually quite angry with Kacchan for disappearing and never making good on that promise. There were several more instances where the priests tried to exorcise Izuku, always with years in between them, and each time he couldn’t help himself from going back to that original spot, waiting for angry red eyes and vicious looking teeth. Wondering why his friend, his only friend, who promised to keep him safe, was never there when Izuku needed him.


Eventually he accepted that Kacchan wasn’t going to come back, and that the promise made by a child, while endearing, can’t be taken literally. His anger and betrayal faded into fond memory for the boy who laughed at Izuku and pushed him into the river and rubbed soothing cream into the places where the priests had hurt him.


He thought he’d never see Kacchan again. Like most things in Izuku’s life, he wasn’t happy about it, but he could live with the knowledge.


But Kacchan came back.

Chapter Text

Izuku can hardly believe it, has to keep touching Kacchan to assure himself it’s not just a dream. His childhood friend, here, in his home. After so many, many years.


Kacchan’s features are sharp and almost ethereal in the wavering light from the lantern. The scales along his jawline, the curling horns, almost ram-like but not quite, and the large, draconic feet sticking out from under Izuku’s too-small blanket are testament enough to his demon nature. But asleep and breathing deeply, expression smooth, he looks angelic. Beautiful.


Izuku hardly sleeps for fear of waking up to find the demon gone. By the time morning comes he’s exhausted and anxious, wanting Kacchan to wake up but also knowing the demon needs rest. He distracts himself by making breakfast and then forcing himself to go work on the garden. There’s a whole section of weeds he missed yesterday and the carrots aren’t going to water themselves. He keeps checking over his shoulder, hoping maybe he’ll find Kacchan awake and standing in the doorway.


What had the demon said, right before he’d passed out? Where is he? Are you hiding him?


A little thrill goes through Izuku at the thought that maybe, just maybe, Kacchan came looking for him here. Maybe he was just as important to the demon as Kacchan was to Izuku. He tries to stifle the thought because, really, how likely is that? If fact, there’s a good chance Kacchan won’t remember him at all. But he can’t but hum as he works, continuously glancing over at his house with a smile.


The demon continues to slumber even after Izuku has finished his work and cleaned up though.


It’s only after Izuku has eaten again and is settled comfortably next to the demon, reading, that Kacchan finally awakens.


It’s not a gradual thing. One second Kacchan is dead to the world and the next he’s jerking upright on the mat, snarling, claws brandished like the weapons they are. His head swings one way and then the other, tilted at that odd angle that means he’s scenting the air.


Izuku closes his book, the sound of the rustling pages causing Kacchan to whirl towards him. He can feel his heart thundering in his chest as those red eyes lock onto his, the pupils slitted and reptilian. There’s a tense second where they simply stare at each other, and then finally Kacchan’s shoulders relax and he cocks his head to the side.




Izuku can’t help but let out a shaky breath. Kacchan does remember him. He smiles shakily at the demon, laughing a little self-consciously. “Hey Kacchan, been a while.”


If Kacchan was beautiful while sleeping, he’s entirely breath taking awake and in motion. His expression shifts, eyes blazing in the dimness of Izuku’s home despite the relaxed slump of his body, the wince as he shifts and pulls at his wounds.


“Where am I?” Kacchan asks, demands really, then winces again as he glances down and prods at his wounds.


“Stop that!” Izuku chides, grabbing at the offending hand before he can think about the action. “You were seriously injured so I brought you to my home so you could heal. Which won’t happen if you keep poking at it.”


Kacchan’s hand is warm in his own, big and calloused, the fingers tipped in wicked looking claws. Izuku can’t help turning it over, stroking his thumb along the curve of one black claw. When he looks up again Kacchan is watching him seriously, nostrils flared.


“You’re not full demon.” It’s not a question but a demanding statement.


Izuku blinks, a little thrown. “No,” he replies, his stomach starting to sink. “I’m half-human.”


Kacchan snorts, twisting his hand out of Izuku’s grip and leaning away from him and. Oh. It feels like a blow to the gut and Izuku folds his hands in his lap, shoulders hunching.


“I just thought you were a particularly smelly demon when I was a kid,” Kacchan says with a huff, eyeing Izuku warily. “Guess that explains that. Humans reek.”


Izuku opens his mouth, closes it, not quite sure how to respond to that. He feels heavy, suddenly. Well, he knew it had been too much to hope that Kacchan was here for him specifically. At least the demon remembers him?


Luckily he doesn’t have to respond because Kacchan shakes his head and continues. “How the fuck does that even happen? Who in their right mind knocked up a human? Ugh, whatever. Thanks for bandaging me up, I guess.” With that he pushes himself to his feet, towering over Izuku briefly before Izuku gathers his wits and scrambles to stand as well.


It shouldn’t hurt that he’s being judged, once again, for his heritage. But he’d honestly thought Kacchan knew he wasn’t a full blooded demon, and that it hadn’t bothered him.


Humans deride him for being half demon, and demons apparently deride him for being half human. There’s simply no winning.


Still, “You probably shouldn’t be moving around too much yet,” Izuku says, fiddling with the sleeves of his robe. “You were in pretty bad shape.”


Kacchan snorts loudly, glancing around the room. “Where are my clothes? I’ve got shit to do.”


“You-you’re leaving?” Izuku splutters, shadowing Kacchan as he moves towards the pile of rags in the corner. He digs through them for a second, plucking at the blood stains on his shirt before deciding the trousers and boots are still acceptable.


“Yes,” the demon says gruffly, dressing quickly. He leaves the robe Izuku gave him on over his pants and boots, making him look a little ridiculous, especially when he straps his weapons over top of it.


“But, your injuries!”


Kacchan shoots him a glare then, seeing Izuku’s pleading expression, rolls his eyes with a huff. “I’m fine,” he insists, pulling at his robe so he can get to the bandages underneath. Despite Izuku’s slightly panicked noise, he yanks and rips at them, letting them pool at his feet. The skin underneath is purple with bruising, and the vivid, messy claw marks from last night are nothing more than pink scars. “See? Stop your worrying.”


With that proclamation he’s out the door and all Izuku can do is chase after him, feeling disoriented and upset. This isn’t what he wanted a reunion to be like. Not in the slightest.


“Wait!” he calls, and, surprisingly enough Kacchan pauses. He doesn’t turn, but glances over his shoulder, looking pissed.


“What. You want to come with?”


“No, I-” He’s not sure what he wants. “I just haven’t seen you in so long,” Izuku finally says. “Can’t you…stay? Just for a little while.”


Even if Kacchan thinks less of him for being half human he’s still Izuku’s only friend. Or at least, Izuku hopes he is.


For a moment Kacchan seems to waver, his expression softening just a touch. He turns towards Izuku, mouth opening, but before he can speak his head jerks to the side, everything about him going tense.

Izuku hears it the next moment. The familiar tread of a priest coming down the road. Tanaka. There’s also the faint crackle of fire; a lantern or torch? But it’s midday and sunny.


Kacchan’s expression darkens, and his upper lip curls. “Human,” he spits, like the word is dirty, and something in Izuku twists.


“It’s okay, I know him,” he tries, though he’s not sure what Tanaka is doing here for a second day in a row.


Kacchan shoots him a look, something wary and distrustful and again Izuku feels that sinking, twisting sensation. All his life he’s been taught it’s the demon part of him that should be hated, but having his human half despised instead feels no different. It’s all the same. At the end of the day he’s both things and he can’t change that.


Despite how unhappy Kacchan looks, he doesn’t leave. He just glares as Tanaka appears in the distance, torch in hand, and approaches.


His elderly face is creased more than usual, expression set in a deeply disapproving frown, and he’s clutching blessed prayer beads tightly in the hand not holding the torch. His gaze doesn’t leave Izuku, unwavering, and not acknowledging Kacchan in the slightest.


Izuku moves to meet him, trying a tense smile. “Tanaka,” he greets, but is cut off before he can say more.


“You were supposed to kill the demon, not cohort with it!” The words are yelled so loudly that the animal and insect sounds from the trees cut off suddenly. Beside Izuku, Katsuki’s already tense form goes even more still and tight, a viper drawing back to strike.


“What-” But Tanaka doesn’t stop, storming straight past demon and half-demon with only a snarled, “This is the last straw.”


By the time Izuku realizes what’s happening, it’s too late. Tanaka has already tossed the lit torch into the open arch of Izuku’s house, his home, the one place he’s welcomed because it’s his. Everything seems to slow down for a second and a loud ringing in his ears drowns out Tanaka’s words, Kacchan’s curse, his own scream.


A strong arm around his waist is the only thing that stops him from hurtling himself into the house. Logically, he knows that the fire has already taken. That the season has been unusually dry and his mostly-wooden house is catching as easily as any tinder, flames crawling across well worn floors, licking up the walls, circling all his worldly possessions. Not even Izuku’s half-demon nature would protect him from the bonfire that is quickly forming.


The arm around his waist squeezes tightly, and suddenly there’s a voice in his ear, hot and low and threatening. “Don’t fucking move.”


Then Kacchan is gone, a blur of motion so fast Izuku’s eyes can barely keep up with him. All his mind can process is the brilliant flash of color as Kacchan’s scales catch and reflect the light of the flames. Individual points of brilliance, scattered across pale skin, black claws and horns slashing through all that color and heat and brightness. He’s the most beautiful thing Izuku has ever seen. Then he’s gone, disappearing into the house. Izuku’s hearing is still dominated by a high-pitched ringing but he can imagine the crackle and pop of the fire, the groaning of wood as his home slowly starts to collapse.


It doesn’t process that Kacchan ran into a burning building until after the demon has already reappeared, arms full of…books. Izuku’s books. Not all of them of course, but he looks to have grabbed a random assortment, probably the only ones that hadn’t caught fire yet. He shoves the entire pile into Izuku’s arms, forcing him into action or risk dropping them all over the ground.


Then the demon whirls around, eyes blazing hotter than any fire ever could as he stalks towards Tanaka. The world is starting to bleed back into realness for Izuku, his initial shock wearing off just in time for him to hear Kacchan snarl at the priest. Tanka tilts his chin in clear challenge.


“No!” The word rips itself out of Izuku’s chest, and he scrambles to set his book aside so he can psychically place himself between demon and priest.


Kacchan snarls at him but his stance shifts so that he’s not primed to attack. “Get out of the way, Izuku.”


“He won’t.” Demon and half-demon both turn to regard Tanaka who, despite his earlier anger, seems calm now. He folds his arms into his sleeves and stares them both down with a look of pure disgust on his face. His gaze flicks to Izuku, and the corner of his mouth ticks up cruelly. “The holy demon,” he mocks. “Caught between two worlds, so tragic, so pitiful. You would never let any harm come to me, would you?”


Behind Izuku, he can hear Kacchan snarl lowly. “Shut up.”


Tanaka’s gaze doesn’t waver, and Izuku feels pinned by the harshness in those eyes. “Because your mother, rest her soul, taught you better. But you’re not human, and you’re not demon. You’re a thing, an abomination, and it doesn’t matter how many good deeds you commit, you will never have a place in this world.”


“I’m warning you, priest.”


“And you know all that. It’s why you’ve secluded yourself out here. But you still try to be good and human, which is the most pitiable thing about you.”


The roar Kacchan lets out makes all the hairs on the back of Izuku’s neck stand straight up in pure fear, but he still finds himself whirling around and throwing his arms out, a living shield between demon and priest.


Kacchan has his teeth bared in a snarl and, now that Izuku is looking at him, he can see the places where fire ate through his clothes during his mad dash into the house. From looking down his nose at Izuku for being half human to running into a burning building in a matter of minutes. Izuku feels dizzy just looking at the demon, his head a whirl of thoughts and emotions as his house slowly but surely burns down in the background.


Demon and half-demon stare each other down for a long moment, Katsuki’s eyes narrowed, fingers spread and tense like he’s ready to rend flesh apart, and Izuku with his chest heaving and his entire body trembling.


“Well,” Tanaka says, sounding pleased with himself. How has Izuku never noticed how cruel his voice is, how mocking? “You two look quite busy. I’ll leave you to it. And Izuku? You know where to find me if you ever want to let us purify you properly.”


The sound of his footsteps is lost under the sudden collapse of Izuku’s roof. Izuku flinches at the volume, turning just in time to see a huge plume of smoke and sparks spiral up into the bright blue sky. Something indescribable and heavy rises up in him, sticky and awful, coating his insides and making him feel like the weight of an entire mountain has settled into his stomach. He wants to be sick. He wants to cry. He wants to curl up and never move again.


His home. The only place where he was ever allowed to exist peacefully, unencumbered. Soon to be nothing more than a pile of ash, so easily tread over and tossed aside by the wind.


By the time Izuku forces himself to blink and look away, his eyes long gone dry and itchy, Tanaka is completely gone. Kacchan has turned too, and carefully stacked Izuku’s remaining books into tidy piles. As if sensing Izuku’s attention on him he huffs loudly.


“You should have let me kill him.”


He recognizes several of his mother’s books in the piles and that’s…that’s something at least. At least.


“No,” Izuku forces himself to say, the word catching painfully in his throat. He makes himself blink again and this time tears well up in the corners of his eyes. Not out of emotion but because his eyes are too dry. They don’t feel cathartic as they clump to his eyelashes, only itchy and uncomfortable. “It wouldn’t have done anything but bring the other priests after me.”


Kacchan snorts and Izuku watches with a sense of detachment as he pulls his robe off, singed around the edges and burned through in others, and starts placing the books on top of it. Creating a make-shift sack to carry them in.


“You didn’t have to do that,” Izuku finds himself saying. “You didn’t have to do…any of that. You don’t even like me.”


The demon ties the sack closed and stands, hefting it carefully over his shoulder so that the books don’t jostle too badly. “I don’t dislike you,” he says gruffly, stepping closer. “And I’m not going to let some asshole push you around just for being part demon. Besides, I promised, didn’t I? A prince keeps his fucking promises.”


I’ll keep you safe! I promise.

Prince Katsuki, returned to the territory after being sent away so many years ago. It clicks with a dull understanding in Izuku’s mind.


“Now c’mon. I said I’ve got shit to do, didn’t I?”

Chapter Text

Izuku follows Katsuki meekly, quietly through the forest. He thinks maybe he’s falling into shock. Nothing feels real. The sight of Katsuki walking in front of him, sack of books over his shoulder, is especially unreal. A demon prince, a friend long lost, someone who seems to hate Izuku yet protects the half-demon regardless, and he’s carrying the very last of Izuku’s earthly possessions in a makeshift bag, leading the way through the forest one step at a time.


None of this can be real.


But the path under his feet feels real, and the rustle of wildlife around them certainly sounds it too. Everything’s cheery and bright and green. Alive. Spring has set about the land and vitalized in ways Izuku had been happy about, just a few days before, excited at the prospect of his garden’s yield. It will probably double now, with the ashes of his home acting as fertilizer in the soil.


The mountains stretching up against the sky get larger and larger as they travel. Katsuki occasionally makes a fuss about Izuku’s pace, snapping at him that he’s too slow. Eventually he must lose his patience because he comes to an abrupt halt with a very loud huff that sends smoke spiraling away from his nose and mouth. He turns on Izuku with a bright fire in his eyes. Normally Izuku thinks it might scare him, but he can’t bring himself to feel fear right now.


“We’re never going to get there if you don’t hurry the fuck up!” the dragon snaps.


Izuku just blinks at him. “Where are we going?”


There’s a pause, Katsuki deciding if he wants to actually share that information or not. Why he wouldn’t is beyond Izuku, it’s not like they’re travelling together or anything and that Izuku won’t figure out where they’re going once they, you know, actually get there.


Finally the dragon huffs again. “Someone attacked the castle, right as I was arriving. I managed to get a few blows in but he knocked the shit out of me and then ran. I chased him as far as that shitty little village.” There’s an unsaid, where I then passed out and you found me. “I’d still be chasing him but he…I’m not sure, but there’s some kind of barrier around the city and I need to figure out how to tear it down before someone gets hurt.”


Izuku’s brow furrows, mind catching onto the mystery and then clinging to it. A barrier, but one put in place by a demon? Most barriers are holy in nature, meant to protect and keep evil out. Or trap it in one place.


“Around the entire city?” he asks, curiosity overtaking even his grief, giving him something else to think about and focus on.


Katsuki gives a terse nod, but his upper lip curls in a silent snarl. “We’re never going to fucking get there if you don’t hurry up though.”


In the past he’s seen the quick, effortless speed of other demons, the way their bodies stretch and move with grace that a human could never replicate. Izuku’s never tried to move like that. He knows he’s stronger than the average human though, so..?


“Lead the way,” he says, gesturing at their intended course. “I’ll try to keep up.”


Katsuki eyes him for a second, like he’s not sure whether or not to believe Izuku. “If you’re too slow I’m going to throw you over my fucking shoulder. I don’t have time to mess around,” he warns lowly. And then he’s off, a blur of motion that Izuku has to scramble to follow.


It takes a moment of fumbling, of focusing on his body, his weight, his posture but…he does manage to catch up and keep pace with Katsuki. His feet barely feel like they’re touching the ground, the scenery flying by in a blur of green and brown and scraps of blue, blue sky. Each step sends up little puffs of dirt from the path and all around him he can hear the sounds of birds calling in alarm to each other. Predators, they say, on the move.


It feels…good. Like scratching an itch he hadn’t even known he had, and he finds himself pushing harder, faster, testing out his own limits. Even the twin aches between his shoulder blades quiet down for a blissful moment.


Beside him Katsuki keeps pace easily, the weight of the books against his back not slowing him in the slightest. The demon flashes Izuku a smile, all sharp, white teeth, and Izuku feels something in him shift.


Travelling this way eats up the distance between them and the mountain in no time. What could have taken them the rest of the day and then most of tomorrow now flashes by in a few hours. By the time they’re slowing to a stop Izuku is shaky and out of breath but his shock has worn off, chased away by physical exertion. He feels sick and lost yes, but with a goal in mind, it's easier to ignore.


And the goal is the giant barrier stretching out in front of them, an ugly, opaque purple that swirls and catches the light in odd ways. It winds between the trees, a perfectly straight line, and gives off such a strong demonic aura that it makes Izuku wince.


“I’ve never heard of a demonic barrier,” he says, glancing over at Katsuki. The demon doesn’t even seem winded, not a hair out of place as he scowls at the mass, brow furrowed. They’re so close to the mountain now that the city can’t be far off. “They’re typically holy in nature. Meant to protect.”


Katsuki snorts loudly. “I’d bet the entire fucking castle this isn’t meant to protect shit.”


Well there’s no arguing that. But…”Most holy barriers need an anchor of some kind. Prayer slips, usually. If we can take out those anchors we should be able to bring it down.”


Katsuki’s face lights up. “Are these slips just small pieces of parchment?”


Izuku has barely answered in the affirmative when Katsuki is off again, leading the way through the trees at such a fast pace that Izuku barely manages to keep sight of him. The demon comes to an almost skidding stop in a small clearing, and is grabbing at what must be a prayer slip before Izuku can warn him.


There’s a brief, sharp flash of white light and Katsuki is knocked back a few paces by the intensity of it. He snarls in outrage, but Izuku has finally caught up and he grabs the demon’s arm before he can try again.


The slip really is quite unassuming. It’s attached to the trunk of a tree, parchment pale against the thick bark, and the calligraphy on it is wide and dark and completely unreadable. It’s also giving off the exact opposite energy of the barrier.


“How is that possible?” Izuku wonders. Katsuki pulls out of his grip, sending him a little glare, but doesn’t reach for the slip again.


“How is what possible?”


“The slips are holy but the barrier they’ve made is demonic,” Izuku explains. “How’d you even know it was here?”


“Saw it when I was chasing that bastard, right before he got me,” Katsuki replies, scowl going even darker if possible.


It’s a little scary to think about honestly. A demon even stronger than Katsuki, who can apparently mix holy and demonic energy? Izuku is the only one with that combination that he knows of, has ever heard of or read about, and said combination is a disaster in him. He can’t use either aspect of his heritage without hurting himself.


“So how do we get rid of it?”


Izuku blinks, pulled from his thoughts. Right. They need to bring the barrier down. “Well…a human could grab it without any problems,” he muses, but that only earns him a snarl from Katsuki. He shoots the demon an unimpressed look. “The holy nature of the slip prevents anything demonic from coming into contact with it,” he explains. “That’s…kind of the point. So either we weaken the magic or we find someone holy or neutral to tear it down for us.”


“Why can’t you do it?” Katsuki demands. The question has Izuku pausing, considering. It’s true he’s both holy and demonic; could he possibly control one energy, either pushing the demonic down or bringing the holy forward, long enough to grab the slip? But he shakes his head a moment later.


“I have too much demonic power in me and I can’t…”


“What, use it?” The demon looks him up and down, arms crossed over his chest, like he’s considering something. “You don’t feel like magic at all, holy or demonic. They don’t just cancel each other out?”


Izuku shakes his head, fingers twisting as he tries to figure out how to explain. “It’s like…there are two separate halves of me. I can access them separately from each other but if I tap into one, it hurts the other half and vice versa.”


“Well there’s your fucking problem right there,” Katsuki says.Then he shuffles closer, holding out his hand. When Izuku doesn’t react he snaps his fingers impatiently, scowling all the while. “Give me your hand, idiot.”


Izuku complies, curious despite himself, and sets his hand lightly on top of Katsuki’s. The demon’s skin is warmer than his own, the tips of wicked looking claws just barely grazing Izuku’s flesh and making him shiver. Katsuki quickly grabs him, positioning his hand so that Izuku’s palm is facing out, away from his body. “You’re trying to access the magics separate from each other, but you’re not two different halves stuck together, you’re one whole. You have to use them at the same time.”


Izuku can feel his brow knitting in confusion, but Katsuki presses a single warm thumb into the center of his palm and his brain short circuits before he can overthink anything.


“Obviously if you try to mix the magics that’s not going to go well, so push one into your palm,” his thumb slides to the side, along the curve of Izuku’s thumb, and then each of his fingertips slides up Izuku’s corresponding fingers, until their hands are almost flat against each other. “Push the other magic into your fingertips. A controlled outlet for each of them should keep you from hurting yourself.”


It…it makes sense actually, in a convoluted kind of way. Tapping into one half of himself but not the other would create an imbalance in the magics, but if he uses them together...


“Okay,” he says, giving a little nod. “I..I think I can do that.”


Katsuki nods back at him and steps away, claws trailing against Izuku’s skin and making him lose focus for a brief moment. He misses the heat of the demon’s skin as soon as it’s gone, but shakes the thought away as quickly as it emerges from his subconscious. Not right now.


Taking a deep breath, Izuku tries to center himself and feel the magic swirling within him. It’s an innate part of his nature, indisputable, but it also feels stale and sluggish. When he was young and his mother still alive, he’d tried to learn how to use it. He’d made prayer slips and blessed beads and purified water, and though he’d been able to complete each task they’d put him in almost unbearable pain. The same exact pain of the attempted exorcisms.


He’d have continued pushing himself but his mother had soothed away his self-inflicted burns and told him that his safety should come first. He’d given the endeavour up entirely after that.


He’s not sure how many years it’s been since his last attempt, how many decades. But his magic shifts when he reaches for it, still there, and something in him relaxes at the sensation. It’s a little different reaching for both demonic and holy at the same time, treating his magic as a whole instead of mismatched halves, but he finds it’s actually easier than he remembers. Now that he’s paying attention he can tell that they’re tangled together, woven up in each other. At the very last second he separates the strands, pushing the holy through his fingertips and the demonic through his palm. His hand lights up with sensation, fingers icy cold and center hotter than even Katsuki’s skin had been, and it steals his breath away.


Trembling slightly, Izuku reaches out for the prayer slip. He can physically feel the repulsion of the foreign holy magic against his palm, but his fingers make contact with the slip with no issues and he’s able to tear it clean in two.


Behind them the barrier shudders violently but doesn’t fall.


Katsuki tsks loudly. “How many do you think are holding this thing up?”


Cutting off the flow of magic Izuku shrugs, then winces at the faint prickle that crawls up his spine. His shoulder blades are starting to ache something fierce. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think we need to destroy all of the anchors to bring it down.”


They follow the curve of the barrier and tear down two more of the prayer slips before the damn thing finally cracks. A rush of demonic energy pours through the tiny imperfections, stinking the air with sulfur and decay, before the barrier shatters completely and the energy bursts through the forest. Just as quickly as it was released, it begins to dissipate.


Katsuki turns a fierce grin on Izuku and Izuku opens his mouth to say We did it or maybe Thank you but the words never even have the chance to form. A scream bursts forth instead as agony rips through Izuku, the twin points of lingering discomfort on his back exploding into violent, unbelievable pain. He doubles over, shaking fingers reaching desperately for his shoulders. He’s barely aware of Katsuki’s panicked shout, of the scent of blood as it drips steadily to the forest floor, and the sound of cracking, grating bone.


Then, just as he takes a deep breath, another scream already crawling up his throat, everything goes black.

Chapter Text

Consciousness comes in the form of sharp, glittering fragments, like a stained glass window laying shattered on a wooden floor; reflecting light in different colors and dazzling the eye. It takes a long time for Izuku to wade through all the glittering and climb his way to the waking world, and the moment he can physically feel his eyelashes fluttering he wishes he hadn’t.


He hurts.


The pain is disorienting and for a moment he’s a child again, with priests hovering over him, prayers on their lips and holy water in their hands. Then he’s laying on the forest floor and crying because he twisted his ankle as he ran away. On the bank of the river, holding his nose because another boy, a human, punched him. A young adult, physically pushed out of his mother’s sanctuary because he was no longer welcome, shoved so hard he’d stumbled and fallen and hit his head on a rock. Older and alone with an aching back and a hollow, throbbing heart.


The confusion fades in the tiny space of time between his eyes being closed and open. He’s laying on his stomach in a bed that smells unfamiliar and strange, late afternoon light filtering into a small, clean room through a window somewhere behind him, and a man sitting at his bedside.


No, not a man Izuku amends. A demon.


He has eight eyes, two that look human with two smaller sets above, and one smaller set below. They’re symmetrical but don’t line up exactly, each set seeming to move further along his face. Other than that he looks completely human, no horns or scales or claws. He’s reading quietly, the air around him focused. Calm.


Izuku shifts on the bed and immediately forgets why he’d moved in the first place as pain shoots up his spine. The demon turns, those eight eyes fixing unnervingly on Izuku’s face. When the demon smiles his mouth is full of sharp, lethal looking fangs, longer and thinner than Katsuki’s but fangs all the same.


“You’re awake! I must tell his Highness at once.” He stands and moves towards the door in the corner, sticking his head out and speaking quietly to someone who must be right outside. A moment later he closes the door and resumes his seat, his book set aside and forgotten about.


“How’re you feeling? We were worried you would be out of it for a while yet.”


“Awful,” Izuku croaks in response. His head is pounding and his back feels like someone spent hours walking all over him. The twin points of discomfort are now ablaze with pain and feel…heavy? He shifts, something about the sensation foreign and strange, and hears something rustle at the same time the spots start to ache with a fresh fierceness. “What-?”


“Hey,” the demon says, standing, one hand reaching for Izuku, “don’t move yet, okay? You’re still healing all that damage and if you move them you’ll undo it all.”


“Them?” Izuku echos with confusion.


Moving slowly and with obvious care, the demon reaches for something Izuku can’t see. But he can feel it. A touch, a gentle, steady grip as the demon stretches out weak, new muscles, fingers brushing sensitive nerves and skin, pink and raw like flesh underneath a blister not yet ready for air. It’s hard to see, but the demon pulls something dark and fluffy into the corner of Izuku’s vision. Moving is painful but he still cranes his neck, arching to bring the thing into full view.


It’s the curve of a wing. Fluffy with fresh down, blacker than night or shadow or even ink. The demon guides it slowly back into place, tucked close against Izuku’s spine, and he can feel the way it folds, feel the point of agony where it connects with his body.


“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the demon says, taking his seat again. “But then, I’ve never seen anything like you before either.”


Anything. Izuku’s stomach twists at the description but he can’t exactly argue it, can he? No demon randomly sprouts wings in a burst of blood and screams, and certainly no humans do either.


Things get treated awfully. Things get kicked and punched around simply by existing; they get chased from their sanctuaries; they have their homes burned down before their very eyes. Things find their knees in the dirt time and time again.


Izuku doesn't realize he’s started crying until all eight of the demon’s eyes go wide, his hands shaping fists then loosening again like he’s not sure what to do with them. “No, it’s okay! I patched you up and you’re going to heal just fine, I promise! You heal slower than full demons, that’s why you’ve been out for so long, but I doubt you’ll even have a scar after this.”


Rubbing his face into the pillow it’s pressed against, Izuku fights back the rush of tears and emotion. Now is not the time to have an crisis over his identity. “Yes, thank you,” he manages, sniffling a little. “Sorry. Just…a lot has happened in such a short span of time. I’m processing.”


The demon seems to relax back into his chair a little, and he offers Izuku another sharp-toothed smile. “Of course. His Highness didn’t tell us everything but he did say you’d been placed under quite a bit of stress. He thought you’d be in shock when you awoke.”


His Highness must be Kacchan. Katsuki. The demon prince come home again after a century spent away.


“He’ll be here soon,” the demon adds idly. “He’s barely left your side, you know. Showed up with you yesterday morning and would barely let me treat you for the way he was hovering and snarling. Spent the night in here and everything. I only got him to leave this morning because he needed to meet with his advisers.”


It should come as a surprise but Izuku still remembers warm fingers against his own, a calm, steady voice instructing him. The moment of triumph when Izuku had succeeded and Katsuki had smiled huge and genuine at him. Their initial reunion may have been harsh, disheartening, but if Katsuki truly thought so little of him he wouldn’t have brought him to safety. Hell, he wouldn’t have even blinked twice at Izuku’s house being burned down, would have left him standing there shell shocked in the dust and ash.


So Izuku merely closes his eyes and presses his face into his pillow, breathing as deeply as he dares.


“Thank you,” he murmurs again, voice still a little rough. “For taking care of me.”


The demon chuckles lightly. “I’m a healer, it’s my duty to take care of the sick and injured. Though of course I’m not used to treating someone half human.”


Izuku opens his mouth but the door to the room flies open before he has a chance to speak. Katsuki storms in, all elegant, flowing robes of vibrant colors and snarling fangs. His hair is messier than usual, sticking up around his horns like he’s been running his fingers through it, but the robes and the arrogant way he carries himself makes him look royal nonetheless.


“Fuck off, Iida,” he snaps, almost completely ruining the image. Izuku can’t help his snort and the other demon, Iida, doesn’t seem particularly impressed either. Still he stands and gives a respectful bow to Katsuki first, followed by a shallower one to Izuku, and then sees himself out.


Katsuki collapses dramatically into the seat Iida vacated, glittering red eyes fixed on Izuku. “Don’t fucking do that again.”


“Do what, randomly grow wings? Yeah, not really planning on it,” Izuku manages gruffly. It brings a smirk to Katsuki’s lips but it fades just as quickly as it appears.


“Do you know what happened?”


Being bedridden and in massive amounts of pain isn’t enough to keep Izuku’s mind from whirling. He’d already been mulling the situation over as a kind of background noise to the rest of his thoughts but he focuses on it now. And the answer comes fairly quickly, even if he has to fill in some gaps in his knowledge with guesswork.


“Are there certain traits demons don’t develop until later in life?” he asks, just to be sure.


Katsuki blinks then shifts where he’s sitting, the sunlight filtering in through the window catching briefly on the scales along his jaw. “Sometimes. Generally we’re born as we are but our more…demonic traits tend to become more defined as we age. My horns were small and nubby until I was half a century at least.” A brief pause and Izuku isn’t surprised when the demon easily catches up to Izuku’s own train of thought. “You’ve repressed your demonic side for so long that tapping into it even a little must have kick-started the process.”


Izuku sighs then winces as the wings shift on his back, dragging along his skin in an alien way. “If I had just accepted that part of myself sooner they probably would have grown in painlessly.” But then, how could he have gone about this any sooner? He barely even accepts himself as he is now, much less when he was young and naive, or slightly older and completely alone. Minutes ago he’d been thinking of himself as a thing. No, this painful, bloody mess was always his fate.


Silence has fallen over the small room, but Katsuki breaks it again in a gruff, rushed, “I’m sorry.”


Izuku blinks at him, thrown. “For what?”


A slightly pointed tongue flicks along too-sharp teeth but Katsuki doesn’t back down, doesn’t lower his head or show any signs of sheepishness or anxiety. “For being a complete dick before. It threw me off finding out you were part human. But I…shouldn’t have been so quick to judge.”


Surprise rushes through Izuku, but is almost immediately replaced with warmth and affection. Here is this fierce, proud prince, bristling in both appearance and personality, apologizing to Izuku. And for something Izuku wouldn’t have even begrudged him, having been treated far worse by others.


“Thank you,” Izuku murmurs for the third time that day. He’s not sure what else to say or even how to say it, but Katsuki changes the subject before has the chance to figure it out.


“Iida says you should be completely healed by tomorrow morning.”


“I’m glad to hear it,” Izuku replies, though he personally has his doubts. His back is aflame.


Katsuki nods. “Then we shall leave before the heat of afternoon can set in.”


“Leave? Where are we going?”


Curling his upper lip in a snarl, Katsuki’s gaze goes distant, no longer focusing on Izuku or even their surroundings. “We’ve a demon to hunt. My advisers have told me of rumors that someone is laying barriers only to slaughter everyone inside. None so big as the one he’d placed here, but big enough. Tens of demons have already fallen to his hand.”


“That’s awful!” Izuku exclaims, and its enough to bring Katsuki’s focus back to him. “But I’m unsure why you want me along on this endeavour. I’m no fighter.”


“No, but you said it yourself; he’s capable of wielding both holy and demonic magic.”


Izuku’s jaw clicks closed as the implications sink in. There’s no way Katsuki can expect him to fight this demon, not when the prince himself couldn’t even defeat him. Before he can start to fret too much, clawed fingers card gently through his hair. Katsuki is leaning over the bed to reach him, the corner of his mouth ticked up.


“Stop worrying, idiot. I want you along for your knowledge, not to fight. I’ll keep you safe. We won’t be alone either, my advisers would sooner tie me down and exorcise me than let me leave without an escort.”


“Oh,” Izuku replies, settling again. The fingers feel wonderful in his hair, soothing a headache he hadn’t even noticed over the cacophony in his back. But even that is slowly starting to fade. Not completely, but he also doesn’t wish for the sweet oblivion of sleep anymore.


“In the meantime you need to eat,” Katsuki continues, standing smoothly. “I’ll call for food. Can you sit up yet? Those wounds look like they’re close to closing.”


It takes Izuku a moment of wincing and fumbling but he does manage to push himself up and to sit on the edge of the bed. Katsuki has dinner brought to them and they eat quietly together, Katsuki ribbing Izuku and asking questions about his magic that Izuku isn’t always sure how to answer. The afternoon light fades slowly into twilight, then to darkness. Izuku barely notices.

Chapter Text

The next morning Izuku wakes feeling marginally more normal. At the very least his back is no longer burning with pain. The first thing he does after orienting himself is to stand and slowly, carefully stretching his wings out. They tinge a little, the burn of muscles unused to being worked, but he barely notices.


At full spread they touch the opposite walls of the room. It’s not a huge room, but their size is still impressive, maybe twice as wide as the span of his arms. He pulls them close again, moves them up and down, stretches one wing out and then the other. No wonder they hurt so bad when they grew in; the bottom most feathers brush the backs of his knees when they’re folded neatly against his back, and the tops arch over his shoulders.


He’s so mesmerized by the shifting feathers, the sounds they make as they rub together and how he can apparently ruffle and smooth them at will, that he doesn’t notice the knock at the door. But his head whips around when it opens quietly and Iida sticks his head in.


“Oh good, you’re awake.”


Izuku closes his wings hastily and tries to avoid flushing at having been caught. But Iida just offers him a smile and comes into the room.


“His Highness is asking for your presence. I brought you some clothes to change into,” Iida says, handing him a bundle of fabric. They feel like fine quality even without unfolding them, and Izuku hugs them to his chest reflexively.


“Thank you, but, um-”


Iida smiles knowingly. “Don’t worry, the shirt was made with your wings in mind. Here, I’ll show you how to put it on.”


Izuku unfolds the shirt and holds it out, examining the large hole and the fabric underneath it that buttons so that he doesn’t have to try and pull the whole thing down over his wings, only the sleeves. With a little bit of awkward manoeuvring, Iida helps him into the garment and shows him how to fasten it by himself.


Once Izuku is presentable a few minutes later, having put on the fresh pants and done his best to tame his hair, Iida leads him through the castle. Izuku can’t help the way his head tips back, jaw falling open at the sheer size and beauty of it. Everything is made of the fine gray stone of the mountain, the floors inlaid with gleaming granite and lined down the center with luxurious rugs. Art and tapestries adorn the walls. It’s all so huge and breathtaking that Izuku loses track of where they are within minutes, the twists and turns leaving him disoriented. The biggest building he’s ever been in was the shrine when he was a kid, and it can’t hold a candle to this.


“This is the west wing,” Iida explains as they walk. “All of the personal quarters and guest rooms are here. The north wing is specially for his Highness and all of his work, and the south wing is all of the communal areas, gardens, ballrooms, libraries, dining halls and the like.”


“And the east wing?” Izuku asks, staring openly as they past a marble bust of a woman who looks remarkably like Katsuki. His mother, perhaps? Or some other female relative.


Iida gives him an amused glance. “The castle is built into the mountain, Izuku. Building further along the east would mean drilling into the rock further and risking upsetting the structural integrity.”


Izuku blinks. “Oh.”


Iida just smiles and ushers him along. According to the demon, they’re headed for Katsuki’s private dining room in the north hall. “The north wing is off limits unless specifically invited,” he says seriously. “Only certain staff are allowed in as well. I’m not sure what your relationship with his Highness is, but wandering around on your own could still land you in trouble.”


Honestly, Izuku wishes he knew what their relationship was too. Childhood friends turned…what? Complete wreck of a half-demon and a full demon who pities him? Friends? Traveling companions? Who knows.


The transition to the north wing is obvious; before, other demons had traversed the halls, maids and nobles and couriers alike, each going about their days. None of them seemed to pay much mind to the pair and Izuku even saw a few demons with wings similar to his own. For whatever reason he doesn’t stand out here. But in comparison the north wing is silent and nearly empty, the walls conspicuously void of decoration.


“It’s been over a century since the last time the royal family was here,” Iida explains when he notices Izuku’s confusion. “After his Highness is settled we’ll redecorate to his tastes.”


The idea of Katsuki sitting around and having to pick between this painting or that, a rug of red or blue, almost makes Izuku want to laugh. It doesn’t suit him at all. Actually, as wonderful as this palace is, Izuku can’t really imagine Katsuki as the king here. Sure his mere presence demands attention and respect, and there’s no doubt that he’s powerful, but he also seems…rugged? Unrefined. Which isn’t an insult in Izuku’s mind, he grew up in a tiny village himself and all this finery makes him feel out of place. Perhaps Kacchan is just as out of place.


Iida comes to a stop outside one of many ornate doors along the wall. Izuku is curious how long it took him to memorize which room is which. The demon’s spine straightens further as he opens the door and bows immediately. Kacchan’s voice rings out a moment later, bidding him to enter, and Iida gestures Izuku forward.


It’s a smaller room than Izuku was expecting, almost cozy if it wasn’t the size of the home he just lost. There’s a long table down the center, Katsuki sitting at the head with two demons on his left and an empty plate at his right. Huge windows stretch behind him, just barely showing the early morning light as the sun rises, casting a halo around Katsuki’s broad form.


The demon raises an eyebrow at him, jerking his head towards the empty seat to his right. “Well, sit down already.”


Izuku scrambles to comply, being careful of his wings as he does so. Luckily the chairs have low backs that he can drape them over. He suddenly remembers the other two demons at the table when he looks up again, and flushes that they both saw him fumbling to do something as simple as sit. They both share some of Katsuki’s traits; reptilian eyes, horns, and scales. But where Katsuki is gold and orange and red, a physical embodiment of fire, one is red and black and the other a paler yellow and white. They both smile and nod at Izuku.


To the half-demon’s surprise, Iida takes the seat beside him.


“Izuku, these are two of my advisers-”


And friends!” interjects the one with red hair, his sharp toothed smile huge and genuine. Katsuki rolls his eyes but doesn’t deny it.


“Anyways, this is Kirishima and Kaminari.”


If you had asked Izuku what he thought a royal adviser would look like, and how they would behave, he would not have said anything close to these two. But they seem relaxed and comfortable with Katsuki, talking animatedly as a hearty breakfast is brought by servants. Izuku picks at his, mostly listening quietly to the conversation. From what he can gather, Kirishima and Kaminari both travelled here with Kacchan from…wherever he was before, and got separated from him when they were attacked. Again, Izuku wonders why exactly Katsuki left in the first place. Perhaps he’ll ask when they’re alone again.


Iida is also quiet, but chips in to the conversation more than Izuku. He’s not quite as relaxed as the others but Izuku thinks it might be more of a personality trait than being uncomfortable with them. There’s no way he hasn’t lived in the palace for a long time now with how easily he navigated it though, so maybe they don’t know each other.


Inevitably, the conversation drifts to serious matters. “We have no idea what his goal is, but if he’s attacked any other cities I should be able to spot the damage from the air. Kirishima and I will fly out to scout after breakfast, and see if we can’t find a trace of him.”


“And if there are no traces? If he’s gone underground?” Izuku asks.


“There are rumors of him that reached the palace long before he did,” Iida responds. “It will take work but he can be found.”


Katsuki’s mouth draws dangerously. “If there were rumors that he was killing demons, why was nobody taking action?”


“Your parents didn’t appoint a regent and getting work accomplished via the council is next to impossible. It was a nightmare just trying to clear ordinances for the city, much less assigning someone or ones to investigate mere rumors from several cities over.” Despite Katsuki’s obvious displeasure, Iida’s voice is level and matter of fact. The words don’t seem to make Katsuki any happier but he rolls his shoulders and lets the matter drop.


“Right. Well, we’ll never find the bastard sitting around. Kirishima, Izuku, with me. Iida and Kaminari find Mina and see if you can’t track down where the rumors are coming from. It’s been a while, but Mina used to know the city like the back of her hand. She should still be able to find her way around.”


All three demons stand and give short bows to Katsuki, Iida and Kaminari leaving together and Kirishima lingering behind his chair. Izuku watches awkwardly, wondering if he should be bowing too. But nobody has said anything about it and Katsuki doesn’t seem to care. The demon stands as well, gesturing them to follow him out of the room. His draconic feet and claws click loudly against the marble floors.


Izuku has to trot to keep up with the other two, his legs shorter and their strides long. “Um, I’m not going to be scouting too, am I?”


Katsuki glances back at him and then immediately slows so the half-demon doesn’t have to move so fast. “You haven’t even learned to fly yet, idiot, why would I expect you to do that?”


“Right,” Izuku mumbles, a little embarrassed. He can feel his wings reacting to the emotion, bristling slightly, and it feels very strange. The feathers smooth a moment later when the idea actually sinks in that he has the ability to fly now.


“Aw, be nice, Bakugou!” Kirishima chides. He flashes a friendly smile at Izuku. “Don’t mind him. Once this is all over I can give you some lessons and tips if you want!”


“Like hell you will. I’ll teach him,” Kacchan snaps.


Again Izuku feels his wings bristle, this time in…well, something. He’s not quite sure what the squirmy, warm feeling in his stomach is but it makes his cheeks flush. “That’d be nice.”


Katsuki just grunts in reply, and turns down another hall. This one is shorter and has several ornate arches that open up into a huge garden. It looks well tended, if a bit sparse. A fountain and several benches are backed up against stone walls that must house another part of the palace, and flowering bushes run along the edge of the garden. Everything in the center is soft, green grass though, carefully trimmed.


“You head south and east,” Katsuki says to Kirishima with a jerk of his head in the indicated directions. “Circle wide and look for anything suspicious but keep an eye out for barriers or large gatherings of vultures.”


Kirishima gives an affirmative and Izuku suddenly understands the purpose of the garden as he moves into the open space. A sudden rush of demonic magic rolls over Izuku as Kirishima shifts, the movement fast and almost violent as his human form rips into something huge and scaly and terrifyingly large. He shakes his wings out, breath so hot that when he breathes out a plume of smoke, Izuku can feel it from where he’s still standing under the arch.


Beside him, Katsuki laughs lowly. When Izuku turns the demon is staring at him. “Better close your mouth, you’ll start catching flies.”


Izuku’s jaw clicks closed and he realizes, belatedly, that his wings have opened and spread a little in his surprise and awe. But just when he starts to close them, Kirishima beings to flap his own wings, taking several earth-pounding steps before he jumps and throws himself into the air. Izuku’s wings flare up and straight back as he braces himself against the rush of air as Kirishima takes flight.


“Wow,” is all he manages to say, head tipped back as he watches the dragon move in lazy circles above the palace, climbing higher and higher until he finally heads east over the mountain and disappears from sight. “I didn’t know demons could do that.”


“Only the powerful ones,” Kacchan says, sounding amused. “It takes a lot of power to hold a form like that. Lower level demons have their one form and that’s it. You probably only have one too, despite your magic.”


That makes sense. Being half human would probably make taking a completely demonic form impossible.


“You can do it too?” Izuku asks curiously, making Katsuki snort.


“Of course. I’ve been able to shift for over a century now.”


“That’s amazing!”


It’s subtle, but Katsuki’s chest swells a little in pride, making Izuku smile. It’s surprisingly cute, the way he likes being complimented.


“Just wait till you see my form. I’m even bigger than Kirishima.” He takes a step into the garden then pauses and turns back to Izuku. “Wait for me here, okay? I shouldn’t be gone more than an hour or two and I don’t want you wandering around on your own. The only reason that lot didn’t spend all breakfast staring at you and asking invasive questions is because I threatened them.”


Oh. So he doesn’t fit in entirely. That’s a little disheartening, but at least nobody is trying to chase him away?


“Okay,” he agrees easily. “It’s not like I could find my back on my own anyways.”


“Good. Now stand back and watch this.”


Knowing what’s coming this time, Izuku braces himself before the blast of demonic energy hits him. It definitely feels stronger than Kirishima’s, and when Izuku blinks his eyes open again, the dragon standing before him actually makes him stumble back a step.


He’s beautiful and huge and the most breathtaking thing Izuku has ever seen. He’s like fire in motion, all glittering scales and rigid spines, the arch of his neck graceful, his claws black and long enough to pierce a man through with ease. He turns his head, his huge horns taller than Izuku, and lowers it so that he can look at Izuku from eye level.


And oh, those eyes. Red like banked embers, a ring of gold around the pupils that Izuku has never noticed before. They blink lazily and Kacchan huffs a breath of molten hot air across him, making Izuku’s wings flare even further. Somehow he’s able to tell it’s a huff of amusement.


“Wait here.” The voice is a deep rumble, emerging from somewhere low in Katsuki’s throat, though his mouth doesn’t move with the sound. Izuku is glad, faintly, because he’s not sure he could handle having those sharp teeth on display so close to him.


Then Katsuki turns and mirrors Kirishima, shaking his wings then taking a few steps forward to gather his momentum together to push off. Izuku doesn't realize he’s stopped breathing entirely until Katsuki is gone from view and his breath whooshes out of him all at once.


Amazing. That’s all he can think. Completely, utterly amazing.


With a shake of his head, Izuku forces his feet to unroot themselves from the stone, and heads for the bench across the garden. He’s got time to kill, might as well figure out how to preen his new wings.

Chapter Text

Only an hour or so has passed when Izuku hears the flap of giant, leathery wings. He cranes his head back, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand, and watches as Kirishima begins a slow, circling descent.


The dragon touches down with a small, earth-shaking thump, and shakes his wings out. A moment later and he’s shrinking before Izuku’s very eyes. Surprisingly his clothes are perfectly intact and he trots up to where Izuku’s sitting with a happy smile.


“Hey! His Highness should be back any minute, I saw him approaching.”


“That didn’t take long at all,” Izuku says with amazement, and the dragon throws his head back with a laugh.


“Scouting from the air is so much easier. You’ll see,” he says with a wink. With a little groan he collapses onto the stone bench next to Izuku, legs stretched out straight and leaned back on his hands. There’s a knowing smile on his face as he bumps his shoulder into Izuku’s. “So. How do you know Bakugou?”


“Oh. Uh, we met as kids,” Izuku says, suddenly feeling a little shy. After all he himself doesn’t know what their relationship is, not the specifics anyways, so how would he be able to describe it to an outsider?


“Really?” Kirishima asks, looking surprised. “I’ve known him for a long time but I’ve never heard him mention a half-demon before.”


It’s obvious he doesn’t mean anything by the statement but Izuku still feels it like a physical blow. He clears his throat awkwardly, trying to work past the pain it caused him. “Well, he didn’t know I was part human. He uh, found out a few days ago when we ran into each other again.”


Red eyes narrow momentarily before popping wide in surprise. Kirishima’s entire face transforms with it, mouth falling open and eyebrows shooting up. “Wait! Are you the kid he saved from priests? Little Bird?”






Kirishima leans forward excitedly, eyes shining. “Okay, so you can never tell him I told you about this but when we first met he never shut up about you! You’re the whole reason he got sent North in the first place.”


“What?” Izuku repeats, feeling completely lost. Katsuki…talked about him? But he was so quick to dismiss Izuku before, upon finding out that Izuku’s only half demon.


“Really!” Kirishima continues. “He saved you from some priests, right?”


It’s not exactly what happened, but Izuku is too curious to know more so he just nods along. “Right.”


“And then you guys met up a few more times. What he probably didn’t mention is that he had to sneak out, and he got in massive trouble each time. Eventually the queen decided to take him North to her home clan, my clan, to try and raise him more strictly. It didn’t work, if you can’t tell.” Kirishima laughs a little, his smile crooked and showing off razor sharp teeth. “He was going to go find you, you know, since we were coming back. But then we got intercepted on the journey in.”


Warmth swirls in the pit of Izuku’s stomach but he still bites his lip, a little unsure. “But he was so quick to try and leave when we did meet,” he says, voice small. “He realized I was half human and practically bolted.”


Kirishima cocks his head to the side, smile slipping. “Izuku, our city was under attack.”


Izuku’s mouth forms a small “oh” but no sound actually comes out. The demon goes on before he can muster more of a response. “Plus, humans haven’t exactly been friendly to demons and vice versa and he probably needed some time to process or like, gauge whose side you were on.”


It makes a lot of sense really and he’s suddenly ashamed that he’d been so self centered as to not realize why Katsuki had been rushing to get home again instead of staying to chat.


Kirishima bumps his shoulder into Izuku’s again before his thoughts can spiral too much. “Don’t feel bad about it, you probably didn’t know what was going on. The important part is that you’re here now.”


The circumstances of why he’s here aren’t ideal of course, but Izuku does feel grateful regardless. How long would he have spent stagnant, living but not living, if Kacchan hadn’t come swooping in?


Before the conversation can continue and Izuku can ask about something Kirishima had said before (Little Bird? What was that about?) there comes the now familiar flap of leathery wings.


Katsuki descends the same way Kirishima had, only twice as big and nearly knocking the two of them off their bench with the force of his landing. He transforms in a rush of demonic energy, and Izuku doesn’t realize he was smiling at getting to see the demon again until the look on Kacchan’s face causes it to fall away.


He looks serious, his brow knotted and mouth pressed into a thin line, and when he stalks towards them he looks the predator he is. Kirishima snaps to attention beside Izuku, standing straight and tall like a soldier awaiting his orders.


“There’s smoke, a village I think. It looked completely decimated. We start our search there,” Katsuki says, sans greeting. “Gather Kaminari and Iida, we leave immediately. I won’t risk waiting and missing any survivors.”


“Sir,” Kirishima replies with a half bow, and then sets off for the keep in a trot.


All thoughts of their relationship and past are wiped from Izuku’s mind as the demon sighs and runs a clawed hand through his hair. “This is not what I was expecting upon my return.”


Izuku pats the bench next to himself but Katsuki shakes his head. “Follow me. I want you to come with, but not without properly outfitting you first.”


‘Properly outfitting’ turns out to be leather armor that leave his wings free and a dagger attached to his hip.


“I’d give you a sword but you’d probably just hurt yourself with it,” Katsuki snorts, and Izuku doesn't argue because he’s probably right.


“Don’t you need armor too?” he asks as Kacchan is checking the fastenings on Izuku’s sides. He’s not familiar with royal etiquette but he’s pretty sure the demon is breaking some rules by tending to someone else’s armor. Isn’t that usually a servant’s job?


“I’m covered in scales, in case you haven’t noticed,” Katsuki replies, pulling too harshly on some laces and making Izuku wince. “We dragons are made of hearty stuff.”


Despite saying this Katsuki still dons leather gauntlets that cover his forearms but leave his hands free, and straps a sword to his back.


They return to the garden in time to meet the others. Everyone is armed and serious looking, making Izuku’s stomach tighten in fear. What if the demon is still there? Will Izuku be forced to fight? No doubt Kacchan will protect him, but that leaves an even sourer taste in Izuku’s mouth. What if Katsuki is hurt because of him?


“You’ll be with me,” Katsuki says to Izuku, snapping him out of his thoughts. “Iida, you’re with Kirishima. Head west as soon as you’re in the air and I’ll take point once I’m there. It’s just over the horizon.”


Kirishima and Kaminari both transform, Kaminari proving to be of similar size to his friend but with white and yellow coloring.


“Wait,” Izuku says, watching Iida approach Kirishima and then climb up onto the dragon’s broad back. “Are we…”


Katsuki raises an eyebrow at him. “How else were you expecting to get there? By land would take far too long. I could always carry you in my claws, if you like.”


“No,” Izuku is quick to decide, his stomach trembling at the mere idea as he watches Kirishima and Kaminari take flight. Not that riding atop Katsuki’s back sounds much better.


“Good. Just remember to hold on and whatever you do, do not open your wings. I’ll fly as carefully as I can.”


“Right,” Izuku says with a nod. “Hold on, don’t open wings. Got it.”


For a moment Kacchan just looks at him, as if trying to make sure he’s really okay with this, then he nods and moves towards the center of the garden to transform. Izuku blinks away the ensuing rush of demonic energy and air, and has a moment of slight panic as he stares up at the giant draconic form. How on earth is he even supposed to reach Katsuki’s back?


The dragon solves his dilemma a moment later by lowering his head to the ground with a faint grumble like boulders grinding against each other. Izuku approaches timidly and one fiery eye rolls in annoyance.


“Hurry up,” he says in that voice deeper than oceans. “The others will be long gone if we don’t get going.”


Izuku hurries, reaching out to touch Katsuki’s scaled hide with trembling fingers. He runs hot, almost uncomfortably so, and his scales are hard and faintly textured. From their glossy appearance Izuku thought they would be slick, but he has no problem climbing up atop the dragon.


Kirishima had been small enough that Iida had to sit on his back or risk throwing off the dragon’s center of gravity. But Katsuki is huge and Izuku is small, and there’s no way he can sit atop Katsuki’s spine with any kind of surety as his legs would just be flat out to either side of him. But the dragon’s neck is more slender and there’s just enough room for Izuku between the spines that run from Kacchan’s head down to his tail. He situates himself there, thighs griped tight and fingers finding purchase on the spine in front of him.


Katsuki turns, just able to see Izuku out of the corner of one eye, and seeing him settled, starts to shake out his wings. It jostles Izuku horribly, who closes his eyes and holds his breath as the dragon prepares to take flight.


At first it’s just a lot of movement and rushing air, Izuku being tossed around despite Katsuki’s assurances of flying safely. But then everything seems to even out and all Izuku can hear and feel is air rushing past him.


Tentatively, the half-demon cracks open an eye. Then opens his other in amazement. They’re…so high up. The world is spread out beneath them in wonderful clarity, forests and mountains and carefully cultivated rice fields that stretch in beautiful patterns.


Everything is awash in color and sunlight, the green of nature, the brown of the warm earth, blue rivers and streams, a lake in the distance that Izuku never knew existed, and the grey and white of the mountain that is Katsuki’s home.


The wind snatches Izuku’s small words of amazement, but Kacchan must hear him regardless because he rumbles in amusement.


Steadily they rise higher and higher, wispy, low hanging clouds streaming past and cooling Izuku’s skin where they fly right through them. Ahead, he can see Kirishima and Kaminari, their scales glittering under the sunlight as they bank, one in each direction, and circle back towards them. They fall into perfect sync just behind Katsuki, following their leader. Izuku can’t help but turn to watch them, amazed by the effortless flying and how natural they look in the air, how powerful.


He can’t help the laugh that bubbles up in him, or the way he stretches his arms out to his sides to feel the rushing of the air moving past them. Kacchan rumbles again, his deep voice carrying easily over the wind. “Hold on.”


Izuku thinks its an admonishment at first, bringing his arms back in, then laughs again in delight as Katsuki suddenly dips his head and does a short dive before flaring his wings to catch an updraft that lifts them back to their previous height. It makes Izuku a little dizzy but he’s still smiling and thrilled, filled with wonder, everything forgotten in that moment except for the thrill of flying.


Unfortunately, that does mean everything.


Smoke catches his attention on the horizon, curling lazy and thick into the sky, as dark as any rain cloud and just as foreboding.


The unpleasant reminder of what they’re really doing here, the surprise, causes Izuku’s wings to flare in distress.


The wind snatches him before he can even think to remember Katsuki’s warning.


He’s tumbled straight up off of Katsuki’s back, wings flaring even further in fear. Unused muscles try desperately to flap them as nothing but air stretches out endlessly beneath his feet. He might scream, he might not, all he can hear is the wind and a deep, guttural roar.


For a moment he’s aloft, the updraft moving through his feathers, wings holding him aloft, but the next he’s plummeting, wings jerking one way then another, air pushing at them painfully as he tries to adjust and flap, open, closed, feathers spread, holding them together, panicking and unsure what to do to save his own life but trying everything he can think of regardless. Nothing works and the ground approaches with ferocity.


“Izuku!” he hears his name far above him, deep and fearful and angry all at once. “Open your wings! Extend them all the way!”


He does as he’s told, and cries out as the wind snatches them all at once, pulling painfully where they’re connected to his back, but his descent has slowed significantly.


“Flap!” is Katsuki’s next command, and he sounds much closer now. Izuku does, once. Twice. And is amazed when each one seems to stall him more and more.


A shadow bigger than the sun descends over him. “Close them.”


Trusting Katsuki, Izuku does, folding them tight against his body and stomach dropping as his body begins to fall again. But he’s caught up in claws as long as his torso before he can go far, shimmering scales closing carefully around his body. He leans against them, letting Katsuki take his weight, and trembles from head to toe.


They land a few moments later, rough and slightly off balance with Katsuki using only three feet. But he’s deposited carefully on the ground moments before the prince transforms and stalks towards him with fury in his eyes.


“What the hell was that!? I told you didn’t you, you idiot? Don’t open your fucking wings!” His words are harsh, face terrifying, but his hands are gentle where he grabs and pulls at Izuku, his arms, shoulders, spinning him to carefully trace over his wings in a way that only makes Izuku’s trembling all the worse. “You’re so stupid, you really could have died, you know that?” Katsuki whirls the half-demon back around, gripping his shoulders tightly and staring intently into his eyes. Whatever Kacchan sees there gives him pause and then he sighs, bundling Izuku in close in a hug. “Don’t fucking scare me like that, Little Bird.”


Izuku nods silently against his broad chest, too shaken up to do much more.


The others land a moment later, demonic energy rushing through the air before all three run over in human form. “Izuku, are you okay?” Iida asks, the first to reach them. “You gave us quite the scare there.”


Katsuki still doesn’t release him so Izuku offers a shaky, “I’m okay,” from within the protective circle of the demon’s arms.


“That was wild!” Kaminari says next, followed by Kirishima’s, “That is not how you’re supposed to learn to fly.” It makes Kacchan snort, but he finally pulls away and lets Izuku stand on his own.


“Sorry,” he says, mostly to Katsuki, but directed to the others as well. “I didn’t mean to scare you guys.”


“Or almost plummet to your death, I’m sure,” Kaminari adds wirily.


Katsuki shakes his head and makes a rough noise. “This discussion isn’t over,” he warns Izuku, though really his yelling could hardly be called a discussion. But he turns to the others before Izuku can object, “Can we get back to the task at hand now, please? And also not pull anymore stupid stunts?” The last is definitely for Izuku, who shrinks a little under the insult. However, he’s not shaking anymore and his heartbeat is finally slowing, breathing coming at a reasonable pace instead of panicked gulps or not at all.


“Right,” Iida says, turning to glance around them. “I don’t think the village is far. Maybe ten minutes that way.” He points towards a rough road worn into the land not far from where they’d landed, winding it’s way further West.


By mutual agreement they decide to take the road instead of flying again. The longer they walk the more Izuku’s back starts to hurt, the muscles overworked and pulled too sharply by the wind. But he keeps silent and sticks to Katsuki’s side, embarrassed over his blunder.


His discomfort is wiped completely from his mind anyways when they find the village. The trees open up suddenly and without warning, spitting them out on a roughly cobbled road, long left to nature and mostly grown over, stones pushed out of place by tenacious plants. The village isn’t much better, houses and storefronts and miscellaneous buildings all turned to rubble, covered in moss and vines and years of decay and growth.


Among it all, in the very center of the village, everything else spread out in a dilapidated circle around it, is a shrine. It’s stones are black with fire and smoke and despite the age of everything else it’s obviously been destroyed very recently.


A faint sound catches Izuku’s attention, as well as everyone else’s in the party. Katsuki turns with a snarl, Izuku a hairsbreadth behind them, to find an arrow trained at his face.


“Leave, demons. I won’t tell you twice.”

Chapter Text

The woman on the other end of the arrow is small and pretty and, in any other situation, would probably be rather unassuming. But here and now her expression is fierce and her aim does not waver. Izuku finds his tongue going dry and the urge to try and back away over takes him. A hot palm against the small of his back keeps him in place though, right before Katsuki lets out a terrifying growl and steps in front of Izuku.


“We have no business with you, hunter.”


“Coming here has made you my business,” she snaps in reply.


“You’re out numbered, don’t be stupid,” Katsuki snaps right back. “You’ll be dead before you can notch the next-”


With nothing but a twitch of her wrist, the first arrow embeds itself in the soft dirt at Katsuki’s feet. Her next is notched and trained on him again before he can even finish his sentence.


“Try me.”


“Woah, okay,” Kaminari says, holding up both hands in a display of harmlessness. It might be more effective if he didn’t have jagged claws on each of his fingers, and if his sheepish, worried smile didn’t reveal rows of dangerous teeth. “I think we got off on the wrong foot here. We didn’t come to stir up any trouble, Miss, promise. We’re just looking for someone.”


Though her arrow never leaves Katsuki, clearly marking him as the most dangerous of their group, her gaze cuts towards Kaminari. She hesitates for a moment before asking, “What do you plan to do if you find him?”


“Kill him.” Her eyes snap back to Katsuki when he speaks and whatever she must see in his face convinces her of his sincerity. Another moment of hesitation and then finally, finally she lowers her weapon. Izuku can feel his shoulders sag in relief. Though he trusts Katsuki would have been able to get the better of her he still wouldn’t have relished watching the battle.


“Then we have a common enemy,” she says. Still eyeing them warily she shoulders her bow and slips the arrow into a pouch on the opposite side. Izuku has no doubt she can pull both out again the moment she deems them too much of a threat. But for now her stance eases and she steps close enough to retrieve the arrow she’d shot into the dirt. “Do you even know who you’re after?”


Katsuki gives a short jerk of his head. “Only that there’s a demon killing other demons.”


With the tension in the air easing, Katsuki’s entire party starts to relax a little more, Izuku included. Iida crosses his arms over his broad chest and surveys the dilapidated village spread out before them. At the center is the shrine, still smoking. “We assumed he struck here, due to the smoke. However, these ruins look quite a bit older than we’d previously thought.”


The woman snorts, then waves for them to follow her. “Oh he struck here alright.” She pauses on what might have once been a main road, the cobblestones nothing but grey dust under practical boots. “Do you know of the taijiya?”


“Demon slayers,” Izuku responds, finally catching the woman’s attention. She frowns at him for a moment, gaze flickering from his face to the wings at his back and then away again. Iida speaks up again before she can say anything though.


“There was rumor a little over two decades ago that the clan had disappeared or been wiped out, but we didn’t know where their village was and didn’t care much either way. If they were gone, less trouble for us. If not then nothing had changed.”


The woman cuts a vicious glare at Iida but then turns and starts leading the way through the rubble again. “Well, if you had ever bothered to look into the rumors, you would have discovered the demon you seek a lot sooner.”


Izuku glances curiously at what remains of the buildings they pass. He’s heard of the taijiya before of course. The priests had always spoken quite highly of them, humans doing the gods’ work. In his younger, more willful years when Izuku had overstepped himself, they’d threatened to hire several taijiya to deal with him once and for all. They’d never followed through obviously, but he’d developed anxiety over the name regardless.


“This was the taijiya village?” Katsuki asks, dragging Izuku from his thoughts. The demon is walking even closer than usual to Izuku, their arms brushing and footsteps in sync. “So close to our territory?”


The woman doesn’t slow her pace. “No, our village is farther to the North. After this one was destroyed a few of our warriors came to investigate but didn’t find anything. The demon was merely hiding though, and followed them back to the village. I was out picking herbs when they returned. By the time I heard the screams it was already too late. I ran the whole back but the demon was gone and everything was in flames. Everyone dead.”


Izuku’s breath hitches. There’s no pain in her voice, only truth, but Izuku has heard himself talk about his own childhood in the exact same tone. He knows what it hides.


“Ours is the same demon, then?” Katsuki asks, either not noticing or not caring. When Izuku elbows him he shakes his head subtly.


“Yes,” is all she says, and then the road they were following through all the detritus opens up in a wide circle around the shrine. Smoke curls lazily from blackened stones, disappearing up into the clear blue of the sky. It’s a small shrine all things considered, the kind that’s more an altar with a shelter built up around it than anything. There’s a distinct groove set into the stone, a mantle that holds nothing. The stones there are darker than anywhere else, an epicenter. Whatever the mantle is supposed to be holding is long gone and the absence of it seems to resonate in the very air. An ache of loss.


Together, their group comes to a stop, everyone quiet. Heat is still rolling off the shrine in waves and the whole area feels heavy.


“It took a while to figure out what happened, but I managed,” the woman continues. “There used to be a god here, who the village worshiped and who protected a certain powerful jewel. A tengu lived here as well and served her faithfully. But eventually the god died and the tengu was alone.”


Izuku can already see where the story is going. Though not necessarily demons, tengu are close enough in relation -despite being aligned with gods- that the transition is an easy one.


“With the god gone and the jewel unprotected, the tengu decided he would fill the empty space left behind. But after some time the jewel’s power corrupted him. He managed to hide the corruption for nearly a century, but it eventually got the best of him and now he uses it to steal the power and energy from other demons, making himself stronger. Unbeatable.”


Kirishima sucks in a noisy breath through sharp teeth. “Well, that can’t be good.”


The woman shoots him a dirty look but shakes her head a moment later. “It’s not. I’ve been hunting him for a while now, but I haven’t been able to pin him down. The longer he goes unchecked, the more powerful he becomes.”


“Then we take him down,” Katsuki says, like it really is that simple. When the woman turns to him he rolls his powerful shoulders back, maintaining eye contact. “What’s your name, taijiya?”


She lifts her chin in response. “Uraraka. Who are you?”


“Prince of the Southern Kingdom, Katsuki.” The title sounds so official and wrong somehow. If it impresses Uraraka she doesn’t show it, just waits patiently as Katsuki names each member of their party. Again her gaze lingers on Izuku longer than the others and he fidgets nervously under it.


At the end of the introductions she cocks her head to the side and says, “I’m assuming you have a plan of some kind.”


“Find. Eliminate.”


She seems to consider this for a moment before coming to a decision. “I think I know where he’s headed. You’ll need a guide.”


It’s clear Katsuki still doesn’t trust her, the way he’s practically glued to Izuku’s side. But he nods and motions for her to lead on anyway.




The place they’re headed is apparently a couple days walk. Katsuki tries to suggest flying but Uraraka shuts the idea down immediately and with vehemence. Which of course leads to a shouting match right there in the middle of the woods.


“We didn’t pack provisions for a trip that long!” Katsuki roars at one point.


“Are your claw and fangs for show?” Uraraka counters. “Are you incapable of hunting your own dinner, of tracking down a stream?”


Kaminari pulls the other demon away after that, lest he start breathing fire.


Iida offers to walk with Uraraka while everyone else flies ahead, but she understandably doesn’t want most of the group getting there first and robbing her of her revenge. She also insists approaching on foot will give them a level of surprise that swooping down from the sky would not.


In the end, Izuku is the one who tips the scale.


“I don’t think I could stomach going back into the air,” he admits quietly to Katsuki, having pulled him away from the rest of the group. The demon’s face instantly softens, red gaze flickering back and forth between Izuku’s eyes. After a moment he heaves a sigh and some of the tension seems to ease out of his shoulders.


“You’re going to have to learn to fly eventually, Little Bird,” he grumbles.


There’s that damn nickname again, the one Kirishima said Katsuki used when they were kids. It makes something low and warm thrum in Izuku’s gut. “You can teach me later, once this is all over.”


The smirk that pulls up one corner of Katsuki’s mouth, briefly flashing predator teeth, does nothing to help the fluttering in Izuku’s stomach. “I’ll hold you to that.” With another sigh, this one more theatrical, he turns back to the group, milling about awkwardly with no direction. “Alright assholes, we’re walking.”


Kirishima and Kaminari groan in unison but a glare from their prince quiets them quickly. “You two are going to fly back to the castle. Gather supplies for-” he pauses, turns to their newest travelling companion, “Exactly how long will this trip take?”


“Three days by foot.”


He swings back to the two demons. “Gather water skins and rations for all of us for three days. I don’t want to waste time stopping to hunt and cook every night. Inform the council where we’re going and what we’re doing then catch up with us again, preferably before nightfall, but if you must then before daybreak tomorrow.”


The two give short half bows, neither of them complaining after receiving such a direct order. They leave quickly to find a more open area to shift in and a few minutes later Izuku can spot them far over the trees arching over head, growing smaller by the second as they fly back towards the keep.


It leaves Katsuki, Uraraka, Iida, and Izuku to continue their journey as before. The trail is easy enough at least, even overgrown and seldom used as it is. They walk for maybe an hour before Izuku cracks and can no longer take the silence.


“The demon,” he says, turning to watch Uraraka. She seems more at ease now then she did before. “Why would he go back to…to where all of this began? And why try to burn the shrine?”


She shakes her head. “I’m not sure, really. Like I said I’ve been tracking him for a while. He was in hiding for so long that I was starting to fret I’d never find him, but recently he’s been attacking whole villages-”


Katsuki interrupts with a snort. “Or whole castles. I had barely set foot back in the territory when he struck.”


That drew Uraraka’s attention. “The whole castle, really?” At Katsuki’s nod she whistled lowly. “Ambitious. That doesn’t bode well for us.” A brief silence then she continued. “That must make you the returning prince all the demons in the area are talking about.”


“You talk to demons before you kill them?” Katsuki returns, slightly acidic. But it just makes Uraraka laugh.


“I may hunt demons, but only the ones causing problems for us lowly humans. Anyway,” she glares at Katsuki but this time there’s no heat behind it, more playful, “as I was saying before, he came out of hiding recently. For whatever reason it seems like he keeps going back to that shrine. Feeling guilty maybe? I don’t really know. Regardless, I met a woman who lives alone in these woods and she said that he holes up in a cave three days from here. That’s where we’re headed.”


“You haven’t been there yourself?” Iida asks, speaking up for the first time in a while. Somewhere along the way Uraraka and Katsuki drew even with each other on the trail, leaving Iida and Izuku to follow behind them. Uraraka glances back, catching Iida’s eight eyed gaze before she continues.


“No. But she was descriptive in her directions and I’m not about to let you face him without me. I’ve devoted too much time and energy to hunting him down.” Her tone is solemn and serious. Iida nods at her, understanding, and she focuses again on the trail in front of her.


The four of them lapse back into silence, travelling as companionably as is possible for two demons, a half demon, and a demon hunter. It’s surprisingly comfortable, but Izuku can’t help wondering quietly why the hell he’s here.

Chapter Text

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.”