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"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope.”
— Helen Keller

 


 

Shouto closes his eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun and the gentle caress of the wind on his face. When was the last time he felt such peace?

 

 

 

Life at the palace had never been easy. His father, King Todoroki Enji, has always been an ill-tempered man. A knight who had fought through the ranks and became legendary for his many kills in battle, he was rewarded with the princess’ hand in marriage by the previous king right before he died. When he ascended the throne, his first decree was to expand the kingdom by sending his troops to the smaller kingdoms and subjugating them. Within only a year, his kingdom became far richer and stronger than ever before, and King Todoroki became someone to fear.

This was clear especially within the castle. It was clear from the start that Todoroki Enji, who only knew of violence and fury, was not a family man. Though he had four children with the queen, he only acknowledged her usefulness to give him heirs. From a very young age, had countless of tutors for them and personally trained his eldest, Touya, who would go to bed bruised and hurting. The king had no patience for incompetence, often pulling out the whip whenever he was displeased with them.

It got even worse when Touya ran away. Losing his heir apparent worsened the temper of the king, his anger reaching levels they had never seen before. He launched a countrywide search for his brother, even going so far as to have spies stationed in the neighboring kingdoms for the capture of his missing heir. But no one saw hide or hair of Touya ever again.

Enraged, the king had all evidence and traces of Touya removed from the castle. His portraits, his clothing, his books—all of them burned and thrown away until it was as if there had never been a Todoroki Touya that existed in the first place.

With his eldest brother gone and Fuyumi and Natsuo deemed incompetent for being born female and lacking intelligence respectively, Shouto was chosen to succeed him. If the king kept a close eye on Touya before, it's nothing compared to how much he watched Shouto now. If he wasn’t being brutally beat-down by his father in training, he was bombarded with a parade of tutors on languages, mathematics and politics. He didn’t have any time for himself, an attendant barely leaving his side to guard his comings and goings. He was so isolated, he barely even saw the other members of his family or even ridden his horse or visit the gardens—activities his father considered a waste of time.

Once, he snuck over to his mother’s parlor, seeking for the comfort of her embrace after a particular rough sword training. Unaware of his mother’s growing instability, he guilelessly approached her and she poured her boiling tea on his face.

That was the last time he ever saw her. From what Shouto knew, his father had her sent away to be locked up somewhere, although he made sure that the village people did not know of this.

Remembering the stark fear and disgust in her mother’s eyes as she compared him to his father, Shouto vowed to one day disgrace Todoroki Enji in the face of the public as Shouto took over the throne from under his nose.

He began to rebel, running away from his security detail and talking back to the king; for despite the punishments he’d be given, he knew full well his worth in this kingdom. Without the queen to bear more heirs and his remaining siblings already dismissed for the throne, Todoroki Enji only had Shouto left—and he relished over the hold he had over his shitty father.

Years went by and the rage within him only grew. Like a dark, swirling vortex, it swallowed him whole—the hatred and anger: at his father, at the world, at himself. Entrenched in isolation, he let his heart grow as cold as a winter’s evening—carelessly cruel to the world around him.

It wasn’t until he met Midoriya Izuku that he got a complete revival.

Shouto met Midoriya one a fine spring day when the air was breezy, the flowers were blooming, and certainly not the time for an attempted kidnapping. Not that this was the first time it happened to him, but he’d had a rather trying day with his father and his advisors—all so eager to pawn him off to the highest bidder—that he completely missed the group of mercenaries following him until he got cornered like a novice. Of course, none of them were a match to his prowess of the sword, but six-to-one was still six-to-one and Shouto ended up on the wrong end of a particularly gnarly-looking thug’s sword.

Just as he thought he was done for, Shouto heard a thud and the thug fell face-first, out cold.

“Are you alright, sir? Are you hurt?” came a panicked voice before him.

Chaotic green hair and a smattering of freckles greeted him, electric green eyes peering at him in worry as the man dropped the brick he used to knock his kidnapper out. A commoner, by the looks of it. He probably saw the kidnappers and decided to step in at the last minute to receive gratitude from the king.

Well, Shouto thought derisively, unfortunately for him, that bastard is more likely to have him banished so that no one ever finds out that his heir was almost bested by a couple of thugs.

But that’s not what happened at all. Instead of useless simpering, his savior only continued to fuss over him—offering salves and bandages for his wounds. He did not ask for any favor—never mind that he didn’t even recognize Shouto, whose scarred face and bicolored hair weren’t spared by the villagers’ wagging tongues.

Wounded, lost and now lacking a horse, the man firmly insisted on taking care of him. On one hand, it was such a novel thing to be talked to this way—not as Prince Shouto, future king, but as just Shouto—that he couldn’t bring himself to say no. On the other, he realized he had no idea where he was. Shouto was so distracted by his annoyance at his father at the time that he didn’t even notice that he had reached the borders.

The man secured Shouto behind him, making sure he won’t fall off or aggravate his injuries, and once again he marvels at this man’s strange compassion. When was the last time I’ve seen someone so kind? Someone so pure and unmotivated by greed or power?

“Oh!” the strange man said, turning back to Shouto with a big smile on his face. “My name is Midoriya Izuku! Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir!”

“Midoriya,” he said, the name falling from his lips, unbidden. “You can call me—”

 

 

 

“Shouto?”

At the call, he opens his eyes. This is not a dream, he tells himself, still incredulous about his luck. This is real.

Turning back, he sees the man he was just thinking about. Izuku still looks the same as he first saw him—eyes still wide and kind, smile as bright and pure as his heart. His body is a lot stronger than it was before, although perhaps that is a given when one is travelling distant lands to defeat great evil. (Also escaping his father’s knights adamant on taking their prince back—except for Iida, but only because he chose to join their party.)

It feels like such a long time ago, meeting in that deserted street as strangers. And now he’s here, with this brave, amazing man who has the heart of a hero—whose warmth has melted his frozen heart and taught him how to live again.

“Are you ready to go?” he asks.

Shouto looks behind him, the view atop the hill unchanged and as wondrous as ever in the light of day.

“Yes,” he replies, walking to the man he now calls his partner—his heart full of love and warmth and hope.

The sun shines bright as they walk towards the future.