Once upon a time, a race of magic users lived in a kingdom called Karafuru. The people living in Karafuru were born with magic quirks, granting them extraordinary abilities. Not everyone in the land had a quirk though. As a matter of fact, it was guessed that 20% of the population could perform no magic at all. The kingdom of Karafuru wasn’t the most pleasant one. For years it had been a peaceful land, under the merciful rule of King Toshinori. However, after a tiresome battle with a nearby ruler, he had been forced to step down. He had won the battle, but lost the use of his magic in the process. The crown had gone to the next most powerful magic user in the kingdom, a fiery man named Enji. He was foul-tempered and rude, seeing those without magic as useless. Under his rule, the kingdom had faced worse prejudices against non-magic users, and been subject to even more wars. However, Izuku had more important things to worry about right now. Like that fist aiming directly for his nose. Or that fire ball, soaring past him and grazing his cheek.
This was the punishment for those without quirks.
Being bullied was nothing new for Izuku. It was simply the nature of being born without magic. Magic made people useful, made them strong. It made them normal. But not Izuku. Useless Izuku, weak Izuku, what a freak he was. So it was really only natural that people felt the need to bully him. Though it was a cruel kind of irony that the majority of the injuries they inflicted upon him were the product of their quirks.
“Aw, come on, Deku. " Someone taunted. “ Why don’t you just defend yourself! Cast a spell on us and we’ll leave you alone!”
Physical pain wasn’t enough. They had to pierce him with hateful words and harsh realities.
“Why do you even hang around here?” Another voice called. “You’re a disgrace to the rest of us.”
He turned his attention to the insult, missing the incoming swing from the boy in front of him.
A strong punch connected with his stomach sending Izuku to his knees.
“S-stop,” Izuku croaked out weakly. “St-op it.”
He meant to sound more commanding but he ended up sounding helpless, on the verge of tears.
“Aw,~” The faceless voices taunted. “Are you gonna cry?”
Izuku gritted his teeth and bit his tongue. He would not give this idiots the luxury of seeing him cry.
“Go on! Run home and cry to your mommy.”
They usually didn’t go this far. It was no secret that Izuku’s mother was no more. No one knew what had happened to her. Izuku didn’t look into it. The truth was painful, and he’d rather not dwell on things he couldn’t change.
“Oh wait… She skipped out on you, didn’t she? Bet she didn’t want a worthless failure like you around!”
She didn’t leave him. She was taken from him. She was killed. Izuku knew it.
“Well I guess the only option would be to run away. Run off the face of this earth an’ leave us normal people alone!”
It wasn’t a bad idea. There was no reason to stay here, why not leave? Izuku didn’t say this however. He kept his head down and his mouth shut. Usually they left him alone if he didn’t react.
He let his body go slack against the pavement.
Someone nudged him with their foot.
“Come guys, let’s go.”
Izuku stayed still for a minute before slowly pulling himself up off the ground and taking in his surroundings. It was an empty alley, no one in sight. There was no evidence of a fight. For bullies, they were fairly smart. Hurting Izuku enough to cause him pain, but not enough to leave evidence. Then again, Izuku didn’t really know those people. It was possible that one of them had an illusion magic quirk, allowing them to hide the scene. Not that it mattered. Under King Enji’s rule, non-magic users were treated a slight better than dirt. Even if he did try and speak up, no one would care. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway.
“Maybe I should run away… ” Izuku thought.
He didn’t usually let their words get to him, but they had sparked an idea inside him.
“ I could go through the woods. Maybe there's something on the other side…”
Izuku nodded along as he thought. Why didn’t he just head for the woods?
Wolves. That's why you didn’t go to the woods. Because the woods were filled with vicious, angry wolves. Wolves that, if you came across them, would chase you. It really was unfortunate that this thought had slipped Izuku’s mind until he was running away from these wolves as fast as he could.
The woods on the edge of Karafuru were teeming with life. They boasted many varieties of trees and animals, and the majority of the area was covered with vines. Typically, Izuku would enjoy such a diverse environment, but when he was running for his life? Not so much.
Izuku squinted in the darkness. Small flashes of dim lighting passed over his body through the gaps in dense tree cover. The leaves almost entirely blocked out the sun, and night was falling quickly.
Roots tangled among the earth, weaving themselves into the dirt and making Izuku stumble. Low hanging leaves brushed against his skin, sending unpleasant shivers down his spine.
He cursed himself, raising his arms to shield himself from the branches smacking him from every side.
“ This was a horrible idea, what on earth were you thinking Izuku!? God, you really are useless.”
He was so in his head he didn’t realize just how dense the woods were becoming. He didn’t even think about how dark the trees had become, how easy they blended in with the pitch black surroundings.
Until he collided head first with a thick branch, sending him tumbling to the ground. As he lay there in pain, the world began to slip away.
“At least I won’t bother anyone anymore.”
The world went dark.
Izuku was adrift, lying on a cloud. His brain was full of cotton, eyes heavy and shut. He blinked slowly. His vision blurred in a slur of soft orange light. Izuku raised a hand to his eyes, rubbing away sleep from the previous night. His vision was still fuzzy as he tried to piece together the events that had lead up to this. He had run… they had been teasing him again... and so, he had gone to the forest to escape….
And then that branch…
Izuku reached for his head, gingerly feeling for any blood or scrapes. To his surprise, he was met with soft cloth wrapped around his temple.
The world came rushing back to him.
He was lying in a bed, bundled up in a handsewn comforter. A candle cast soft shadows around the room. The blinds were drawn and Izuku couldn’t tell what time it was. The room itself was rather small, with the majority of the space being taken up by the bed. Across the room was an empty door frame, leading into what appeared to be a kitchen. Every other wall in the tiny room was covered in shelving. Most shelves held jars, filled with an assortment of items. There were also quite a few books, some unlit candles, and some miscellaneous fabrics strewn about.
Izuku groaned and rolled over as thoughts began to swirl in his head.
How did he end up here? He thought for sure he’d been done for. Had he been kidnapped? Oh god, he’d been kidnapped, hadn’t he? Oh no. He clearly couldn’t run away like this, and besides, where would he go? Saved from a death in the woods only to be kidnapped. What a trade off.
Before Izuku’s thoughts could spiral any further, a figure appeared in the doorway. They wore a long, well-worn cape. It was dark blue from what Izuku could tell, held together with poorly sewn patches.
“Oh, you’re awake. How are you feeling?”
A concerned masculine voice asked.
He stepped into the light and Izuku’s jaw dropped.
Mismatched eyes laced with worry, and a jarring burn scar covering his left eye. However, it wasn’t his appearance per se that was so startling for Izuku. It was the fact that he knew that man. Everyone knew that man. In a breathless voice, Izuku whispered,
“You’re the long lost prince.”
Everyone in the Kingdom of Karafuru knew about Prince Shouto. The heir of the Todoroki family, the tragic hero, and the boy who had gone missing at the young age of 7. He had been sheltered from the rest of the kingdom, only making appearances when King Enji permitted.
Then one day, he was gone. Just, poofed out of thin air. A grand search was launched across the kingdom. King Enji called Prince Shouto his masterpiece. He was bred to be a leader, and he had some of the strongest magic in the land. A reward was put out for his return, and the royal army was searching at every moment. But after a few years with no results, things settled down. The groups were sent out less, civilians stopped caring and stopped searching. There were still memorials, stories were still told, but the world seemed to accept the fact that Prince Shouto was lost for good.
And here was Izuku, staring him in the eye.
“Long lost prince huh? Is that what they call me?”
A funny sort of smile crossed Shouto’s lips, he looked mildly amused about this fact.
“Well, you can just call me Shouto. I’m no prince anymore.”
“Is this where you’ve been for the past 10 years?” Izuku asked incredulously.
“More or less.” Shouto said.
A thousand questions sprung to Izuku’s mind.
“What are you doing out here? You’ve been missing for so long! Everyone thinks you’ve died!”
“Of course there would be some sort of cover up.”
“The stories say you disappeared one day out of the blue, and no one knows why.”
Shouto’s eyes clouded over.
“Well, that’s not true.”
Izuku waited for him to elaborate, but it seemed like that was all he wished to say on the matter.
Shouto walked around the bed to give Izuku a hand, gently easing him onto his feet.
“Are you sure you can stand? You took quite a hit.”
“Yeah, I’m alright. I’ve been through worse.”
Shouto placed a protective arm around Izuku’s shoulders, guiding him through the doorway.
The room they entered was well-lived-in. Twine was strung across the ceiling with dried herbs and plants hanging from it. The walls were covered in shelves bursting with fabrics, pots, and vases of wildflowers. A few well-worn books sat on the shelves. Candles provided the only light, flickering and casting dull shadows around the room. A table sat in centre adorned with a plaid tablecloth.
Shouto pulled out a chair, gesturing for Izuku to sit. Izuku did, sliding the chair closer to the table.
“Mind if I ask the name of the stranger I’ve welcomed into my home?”
“Oh…” Izuku suddenly felt a bit anxious and shy. He hadn’t really exchanged names with someone in years. He lived in a small village and when you were quirkless, word got around quickly.
“My name is Izuku Midoriya. B-but since I’m calling you Shouto, it’s only fair if you call me Izuku!”
“Alright then!” Shouto said.
Izuku expected him to sit down as well, however Shouto remained standing.
“Would you like some tea?” Shouto asked.
Izuku nodded hesitantly.
Shouto turned towards the cupboards, reaching for an old, dented, kettle. He filled it with water from the sink, but didn’t place it onto the stove. To Izuku’s surprise, he held his hands against the kettle. Flames burst from the older boy’s hands, enveloping it and sending an impressive burst of steam throughout the small home. Izuku gasped in surprise, placing his hands over his mouth and keeping his eyes trained on the scene unfolding in front of him. The flames died down, steam still pouring out. Shouto grabbed something from a cupboard behind him and placed it in the teacup. When Izuku peered into the cup, he saw it was a small cloth bag. Shouto poured the kettle’s contents into the cup, then held the bag by its drawstring and swirled it in the water. The water was quickly stained a dark purple that bordered on a red.
He slid the cup in front of Izuku.
“Here you go.”
Izuku blinked, pulling the cup towards him and taking a gentle sip.
“Wow.” He breathed, setting the cup back on its saucer. “That was… amazing.”
“It’s just tea.”
Izuku flushed and slid the cup around the table.
“I meant..” He clarified, “Your quirk is amazing.”
Shouto’s vision clouded. He pulled up a chair sitting to face Izuku. He refused to meet the other boy's eyes, keeping his gaze downward.
“I always thought of it as a curse. Just my father’s powers. Keeping me under his thumb long after I’d run away.”
“Curse?” Izuku’s curiosity got the best of him. He was already pushing his limits, staying in a stranger's house and needing their help, but… Shouto looked so sad.
“What did King Enji do to you?”
Shouto took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“When I was 5, I learned what true pain was.”
Shouto went on to detail the story of his past. Detail after detail as he poured his heart out to a near stranger. Izuku kept quiet for the most part, only speaking after Shouto had finished.
“She really did that to you?”
“After that, father carted her away and I never saw her again. He said he sent her somewhere they could help her, but I’m not buying it.”
Shouto sighed, fiddling with the edge of the table cloth.
“After Mother was taken away, I made my plan. I would pack up all my possessions, everything I cared about, and I would disappear. After over a year of sneaking supplies away, I snuck out for good. I’ve been here ever since.”
“So you never returned to the kingdom? ”
“Not exactly. There’s a shady witch on the Eastside who’ll perform any illusion magic for a price. I’ve visited inside a few times, mainly just to buy things I can’t get myself out here. I poked around, couldn’t find anything about my mother. After I while, I just accepted it. He took her from me, and I could never forgive him for that.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. After all that…”
“And then of course, at the end of the day, I’m still cursed with his magic and his quirk. I can never be anything more than his creation.”
“Oh Shouto,” Izuku breathed, heart aching with sympathy. “Your quirk is your own. It’s up to you to choose what to create.”
Shouto just stared at him. He blinked once, twice, and slowly a few tears began to dot the edges of his eyes.
“He can’t hurt you anymore. You can be better than him. You can be stronger than him. As long as you use your fire for good-“ He gestured to the cup in front of him. “For tea and fireplaces and candles, you’ve already beaten him. You’ve done more than he ever could.”
And the tears rolled down Shouto’s cheeks, as he broke out in a wide smile.
“Thank you Izuku.”
Izuku stood up, walking around the table with his arms outstretched. He cocked his head to the side, asking without using words.
Shouto nodded, tears still streaming softly down his face. He stood up and walked to meet Izuku in a hug. The two wrapped their arms around each other in a tight embrace and Shouto cried into Izuku’s shoulder. They stood like that for a long time before pulling apart, remaining within arms length.
“I wish I’d had someone to tell me that sooner.” Shouto said, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “I could’ve saved myself so much pain.”
“Weren’t you lonely out here?” Izuku asked.
“Everyday.” admitted Shouto.
Izuku took a deep breath as he began his next sentence.
“Well, what if you weren’t alone?”
Shouto shook his head sadly.
“I can’t go back. I’d be forced into an arranged marriage, forced to lead the country, back under the iron rule of my father, I just couldn’t do that.”
Izuku waved his hands in a side to side motion and clarified,
“No no! I get that. I don’t think I could go back either…”
Shouto’s breath hitched.
“There’s nothing there for me anyway. There’s a reason I ran into these woods.”
He gave Shouto a pointed look, and suddenly he understood.
“If it’s okay with you then…” Shouto began carefully, picking up Izuku’s hand. “I would love for you to stay with me.”
If you ever find yourself lost in the woods, in need of help, you might just stumble upon a cottage. You’ll be welcomed inside and come face to face with two people.
A man who can create fire and ice wrapped in a dark blue cloak and a man with no magic and a wide smile. They’ll patch you up, talk with you and send you on your way. If you ask them what they’re doing there, they’ll share a smile and answer in unison.
“Sometimes you have to run away from your problems to solve them.”