AN: This is primary pairing Bakugou/Kirishima with some past Bakugou/Tomura. This site doesn't allow you to tag pairings so if you don't like these pairings I suggest you find something else to read. Consider this your warning.

This fic is also heavily focused on Momo, Ochako, Izuku, and Shoto and will contain chapters strictly focused on them.

The forest always seemed to take much longer to wake up than the rest of the world. The air was heavy with the dew of the morning despite the sun having been well up in the sky and there was still a permeable chill to the air. There was a lack of bird song and not even the buzz of insects, as if the world had become bathed in utter silence as Katsuki reached the ravine he had been searching for.

Outside of here in the rest of the country Tomura's subjects would already be hard at work in the fields or slaving away building that stupidly big castle of his he was so hellbent on completing. But here in the woods surrounded by trees, it was as still and silent as death, frozen almost. Unnaturally so if Katsuki did say so himself

He sat for several moments, letting the silence play out around him as he observed the ravine below. The side of the ravine opposite from him was overgrown with vegetation. It stretched and weaved around itself, creating a pocket almost like a cocoon against that wall. It was an unusual feature but from within that foliage nothing stirred or gave the appearance something was living down there.

Regardless he was certain he wasn't wrong. After how long he had been doing this he rarely ever was. He knew his quarry was down there, likely hiding as they tended to do when a hunter was nearby. The creature he was after would use evasive measures first, attempt to hide in whatever convenient place there was, camouflaging itself to look like its surroundings. Then once discovered it would more than likely try to flee as they normally always did. And if that didn't work…well, that was when the real fun began.

Katsuki left his horse where it was and made his way into the ravine. The area was much too small for the animal to be of much use and it was more probable it would break its leg on the way down anyway. It was trained enough that it would remain where it was until he returned for it.

He half-skidded half-climbed his way down and for a moment the silence was shattered by the sound of the dirt and rocks tumbling down at being dislodged from his descent. The noise sounded louder than usual due to the eerie silence and once the last stones had fallen and the clatter had ceased the repressive silence returned. Somehow it was even quieter down in here than it had been up on the ridge. As if the area around him was afraid to breathe. Holding its breath in suspension. Or apprehension.

Katsuki took his time looking about. There was no need to rush. If it was down here he'd find it. It was only a matter of time until he did so.

He turned in a circle as he inspected the ravine and it was when his back was turned to the cocoon that he heard just the tiniest stirring of the foliage. If it had been anyone else they might have missed it entirely. But not him.

He froze at the sound. His gaze moved to the corner of his eye, flitting in the direction the noise had come from. He couldn't see completely, the area being just out of view, but a wide smirk still spread across his face as his hand dropped to his sword hilt.

"Found you…"

As Katsuki had predicted the peasants were hard at work in the fields. Wheat, barley, corn – it stretched out for miles, a golden blanket rippling in the occasional breeze, dotted with the inhabitants of the village working away. Nearly the whole village was out, working the field, even the elderly and the children. They all had to work in order to meet the quota that Tomura demanded. A quota that grew larger every year and one which if they didn't fulfill, they would face strict punishment for.

Alongside the miserable folk working the fields a young man was riding by on a mule. A young man who was much cleaner and significantly less miserable looking than those he was passing by. Dark fluffy hair surrounded his head and wide green eyes with a splash of freckles dotted across his cheeks. In front of him was rolled out a piece of parchment. At the top of the paper the name Izuku Midoriya was scrawled out.

He talked away to himself as he rode, writing down the things he said and oblivious to the inquisitive looks of the peasants. It wasn't very often they witnessed someone capable of reading or writing, a talent that was quite rare these days.

"Oh, All Might," Izuku chortled away to himself. "All Might, the greatest mage-warrior to have ever lived, the greatest king, the greatest warrior, the greatest mage, greatest…warrior-mage?" He scratched the side of his head with his quill. "Which do you think, Gilbert?" he turned the question over to his mule. "Which sounds more dashing? Warrior-mage or mage-warrior?"

A high pitched bray was the usual response he received and he nodded sagely. "You're right. Warrior-mage is much better!" He jotted down the words before continuing his reciting. "All Might, All Might, the greatest warrior-mage that ever lived, your gloriousness shines over all, a beacon in dark times, a salve that heals the masses, a…a…darn."

He let the quill hit the parchment with a sigh. Maybe trying to supplement his income by writing moving poetry about the great king of old was not such a good idea. No matter how much he revered the great All Might it was hard to think of additional ways of praising someone and he always seemed to run out of words around the fourth or fifth verse. If he had known it was this hard writing anything of substance worthy of being paid for he might have decided to do something else to try and make money. It had been so long he couldn't remember the last time he hadn't eaten anything that he hadn't scrounged off some bush or tree somewhere to try and fill his woefully empty belly and his pockets were painfully bereft of any cash. He should have practiced more before he left the monastery rather than spending all of his time reading.

"Perhaps I should try an acrostic poem." He cleared his throat to give it another try. "All Might. Legendary All Might. Legendary—" He paused at the shrieking cries of terror that suddenly rang out around him. When he glanced up he found that the peasants were abandoning their work and running as if their lives depended upon it, or ducking down as if trying to escape a barrage. "What in heaven's name—"

His words instantly halted as across the ground underneath him a shadow suddenly stretched. A shadow that was impossibly big and impossibly wide with wings that stretched out on either side to encompass nearly the entire field. A large swooping sound came from overhead and he only had time to glance up for half a second before Gilbert proceeded to bolt, but even that one glance was enough for him to confirm what it was he was seeing.

A dragon.

It was so close he could almost literally count the scales along its belly. It was steadily losing altitude and its claws brushed against the stalks of the field as it sank lower to the ground. It made it over a small hill but in the next instance it must have hit the earth, if the loud thud and large plume of dust and grain that was kicked up was anything to go by anyway.

He was nearly thrown from his saddle as Gilbert bucked, the mule braying so loud one would think he actually was being attacked with the piercing noises he was making. The animal twirled in a circle and he struggled with the reins. He was so distracted in his struggle trying to get the animal under control he didn't notice the other rider heading down the road straight at him at break neck speed.


The other rider raced by, hardly giving them a berth at all. Gilbert shied away just enough at the larger horse that they weren't hit but the mule struggled to retain his footing. Izuku barely noticed. He was so stunned he could only stare after the rider. The rider who was not running away from the dragon but actually towards it. He watched open mouthed as said rider raced across the fields and disappeared into the cloud of dust that had been created by the dragon.

Shortly afterwards a large roar rent the air right before a torrent of flame seared the sky. Gilbert skidded across the ground at the flame and Izuku quickly dismounted to grab the animal and better control him. He watched riveted for any other activity within that cloud. There were several shouts and a large swatch of grain flew into the air, pelted from some unseen force. There was more flame and more yelling and more snarling and more debris flung about, then a large cry that was clearly from a man.

Izuku stood frozen. He strained with both eyes and ears to see or hear anything else from within that dust cloud but saw nor heard anything. That rider couldn't possibly…

Then there was the sound of hoofbeats. They were drawling closer and Izuku instantly perked up. The rider must be returning. He held his breath and stretched up when he saw the horse emerging from the dust cloud. Only…its back was empty, devoid of a rider.

"Oh dear." Izuku lowered his head and quickly made a religious sign across his chest. He had no idea who that man had been but he hoped whatever fate he had suffered that it had not been too painful.


Izuku blinked at the sudden curse. He was pretty sure the horse hadn't been the one who had uttered that. But if not the horse then who?

A movement came from within the dust cloud that was starting to dissipate and he stared in disbelief as from the cloud the rider stepped out. The man was walking a little unsteadily and looked to be a bit battered but he was unmistakably alive.

"Stupid fucking horse," he hacked. "Running away like a coward." He swung his hand and Izuku saw he was holding something in his grasp. A large fang. A dragon's tooth.

Izuku gaped. "Amazing…" Forgetting all about Gilbert for the moment, he raced over to the rider. "That was incredible! Such a daring feat of strength!"

He came up to the rider who was still walking towards him as he spoke. Only to end up walking straight past him, not even sparing him a second glance or acknowledge his presence whatsoever.

Izuku turned after the figure. "Sir knight!"

"If you think I'm a knight then you're either blind or the village idiot," was the snapping reply he received, the rider not even bothering to turn as he spoke.

Izuku paused at the response. It was true he hadn't seen a knight before but he had read about plenty of them in the old texts of the monastery. He scrutinized the rider a little more closely to see if he matched their description, those knights of old who wore armor that gleamed in the sun and brandished large swords that exuded glory with dashing good looks that would turn any fair maiden's head.

Admittedly the man in front of him did not match any of that. Instead of glorious steel plated armor his armor was leather and the sword by his side did appear to have had seen better days. It was heavily nicked and had a long scar down the center of the blade. Regarding the good looks, Izuku did not find he possessed them. This rider was not handsome, but quite tenacious looking, almost wild like with his blond spiky hair that stood out around his head and his scarlet red eyes. His mouth did not appear to be one that was graced very often with a smile. Right now it was in a line as he wiped a hand across his forehead to rid himself of the blood trickling down, moving towards his horse to fiddle with his gear.

"Well, either way that was an incredible fight!" said Izuku, bouncing back despite the clear differences between this man and the knights of the old stories. "I mean I'm assuming it was an incredible fight considering I didn't actually see it and all – but you came out victorious! That is a great feat of strength certainly benefiting someone to be worthy of the title of knight!"

The man aimed a scowl his way, not looking much appreciative of the comment, but he didn't get a chance to reply as they were quickly distracted by a group of horsemen riding up to them.

"He's no knight." The man in front of the group rode up with a wicked grin on his face. A large scar ran in a line up his forehead and his chin and upper lip were shadowed with facial hair. "Quite the opposite in fact."

"Jin." A sardonic smirk twisted the rider's mouth at seeing the other man. "I see you're riding pretty as usual. Enjoying living off Tomura's scraps like always."

Izuku watched the exchange in slight confusion. If he wasn't mistaken it appeared the two somehow knew each other.

"As do you." The man, Jin was his name Izuku supposed, looked towards the remnant of the dust cloud, and the final resting place of the dragon. "It's about time you did your job. We lost several more cattle this morning. That's going to take a chunk out of my profits."

"I didn't see any of your men out here volunteering to kill it," the rider said pointedly. "We had a deal. One dragon one bag of gold. I delivered the dragon. Time to deliver on your part."

"After all the destruction that occurred to my livestock and fields?" Jin sniffed contemptuously through his nose. "I shouldn't pay you anything."

"Suit yourself." The rider shrugged. "Next time I'll leave the dragon and you can work out a way to protect your precious livestock instead. See how much money you save then."

The man sneered at the words. He reached an arm behind himself. He pulled out a bag of gold which he proceeded to throw at the rider's face. "There's your payment," he spat, "dragonslayer."

"Dragonslayer?" Izuku looked back at the rider with wide eyes, a mix of awe and appall going through him. Just like a knight he had never encountered a dragonslayer before but he had heard stories. Men who traveled across the land killing dragons for profit. Bounty hunters of a sort, only they went after magical creatures rather than men who were guilty of some sort of misdeed.

The rider did not seem to notice his staring. Or simply didn't care, too busy counting up the gold in his palm.

"Oh, I should tell you; did you know the king is getting married in a few weeks?" Jin suddenly spoke up. "That little princess from Esuha, I'm sure you know the one. Any congratulatory words you would like me to pass on to you the king for you?" That wicked grin returned to his face and several snickers came from the men behind him.

The rider grunted. He bit into one of the coins as if testing the authenticity. "God save the queen," was all he said.

"You always did lack imagination," Jin commented in a bored tone, as if dissatisfied by the response. "Well, I'm sure if you asked nicely the king might just forgive you. Being his wedding and all I'm sure he's to be of a forgiving mood." A mocking smirk flitted across his lips. "If you begged on your knees that is. In fact maybe he'd even make you a knight!" He and his companions sniggered away in mirth.

The rider tightened the string on the bag with a violent twist, a heavy scowl twisting his features. "As if I have anything to be forgiven for."

He started forward, pulling his horse almost violently along. He purposely moved too close to Jin as he walked by, making the other man's horse shy and skit away, though Jin only laughed at the rider's animosity.

"Enjoy those scraps, vagabond!" he called after him. No response was given and Jin, seemingly disappointed at the lack of a reaction, turned his horse towards the fields instead. "Get to work, you filth!" He rode out to yell at the peasants. "That wheat isn't going to cut itself and if you don't reach Tomura's quota I'll do some cutting of my own!"

Izuku blinked at the four riders running into the fields after the peasants before he turned back to the rider's retreating back, owlishly watching him walk away. Then, with a jolt, he quickly went and gathered Gilbert. "Sir knight!" he called after the rider.

"Stop calling me that," the other man snapped over his shoulder.

"Oh, sorry! Would it be alright if I accompanied you?!"

"Do whatever the fuck you want. The roads are still free far as I know, unless Tomura has decided to tax those as well." The rider shot a dark glare Jin's way, the other man not missing the look or the scornful words.

Izuku hurried to catch up. "Sir dragonslayer—"

"Don't call me that either."

"Whatever should I call you then?"

"Whatever you want just not that."

Izuku thought for a moment, stumped, before brightening. "Oh, how about your name?! I could call you by that! What might be your name, sir knight?"

The other man scowled, narrowing an eye at him though whether that was because of what Izuku had called him again or that he was suspicious of Izuku's intentions Izuku wasn't sure. It was a long moment before the rider answered, and when he spoke it was in a low tone, as if he was not used to speaking his name. "Bakugou."


"Katsuki Bakugou."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sir Bakugou!" Izuku stuck out a hand. "I'm Brother Izuku Midoriya!"

"Brother?" Katsuki paused to do a double take of him, though he didn't accept the offered hand. "You don't look like a monk." The words were almost accusatory.

"Oh, um, well, I—I'm not." Izuku rubbed the back of his head in slight embarrassment. "I mean I'm not a monk anymore that is! It's just a force of habit after saying it so long. I grew up at the monastery but I left a few weeks ago."

"Left? I didn't think monks typically did that."

"They don't but since I was raised in the monastery and didn't come there willingly I was permitted to leave if I desired when I came of age."

"So you left?" Katsuki was staring as if he had just heard the dumbest thing in the world. "Why the fuck would you decide to do that? There ain't shit out here but dirty starving peasants and over-entitled fat overlords. Why the hell would you leave a monastery for that?"

"It was all in order to pursue my destiny!"

"Your destiny?" The words sounded suspiciously close to laughter. "And what might that be?"

"To be as great a mage as All Might himself!" Izuku loudly declared.

Now Katsuki did let out a guffaw, right before turning back around to continue walking with a departing air about him. "Good luck with that then."

"But you! You took on an entire dragon all by yourself!" Izuku followed after him regardless. "That's just like All Might!"

"If you think I'm anything like All Might then you clearly don't know much about All Might."

"Oh but I know all about him!" Izuku dug into one of the many saddle bags draped over Gilbert, nearly tripping several times as he tried to do so and continue walking to keep up with the other man. He pulled out several scrolls, several of them unfurling and nearly hitting the ground. "I've read up on him extensively! The battle of Kamino, the fight against the evil god All for One, the establishing of Yuuaye and his circle of heroes. I've read them all!"

"You can read." Katsuki actually sounded slightly impressed at the fact. "Not many can around here can."

"The monks taught me to read and write." Izuku juggled the scrolls, managing with some difficulty to extract one in particular. "This is the one about the Trigger incident. Have you heard of it? It's not one of his greatest feats but it's one of my favorites! In it he—"

"I already know. I read that one years ago."

Izuku blinked for several seconds before smiling widely. "So you are quite familiar with All Might!"

"Everyone knows about All Might. It's not that special."

"Is that right?" Izuku was genuinely surprised at hearing that. "What is it you know about him exactly?"

"The greatest king who ever lived. The only knight who was both a swordsman and a mage and wielded more power than an entire army. The only man who went undefeated in battle and became a legend. "

Izuku nearly bounced in place. "You do know your history! That's amazing! You must have read quite a bit about him."

Katsuki shrugged. "All that I could find about him anyway. But that was a long time ago."

"That's fantastic!"

Katsuki shrugged again. His gaze was turned away onto the nearby fields. "They were just fun stories to read as a kid, that's all."

"But you know exactly what I am talking about! That's stupendous!" Izuku stuffed the scrolls back into Gilbert's saddle bags. "I hope to be as great a mage as All Might himself one day!"

"That right?" Katsuki sounded halfway amused again. "You actually able to do any magic?"

"W—well…Maybe just a little." Izuku spread his hands. He flicked them several times in a very purposeful manner, Katsuki stopping to watch with mild interest. There weren't many people who were capable of magic anymore and Izuku assumed that even someone as well traveled as Katsuki likely was had never seen anyone perform the feat in person. Though Katsuki's expression swiftly melded into a very unimpressed look when nothing happened whatsoever from Izuku's flicking.

"I—I'm still working on it."

"Uh huh." Katsuki turned away to continue walking.

"But I'm sure I'll figure it out someday!" Izuku persisted. "I just need a trigger of some kind. All Might had something similar happen to him after all. I'm sure if I were able to find that then the magic within me would awaken." He frowned, a bit despond at the thought, before his face suddenly lit up, an epiphany striking him like a bolt of lightning. "I got it!" he said excitedly. "It's the perfect idea, it's bound to work! All I need to do is stick with you!"

Katsuki drew to a halt so suddenly it was like he had just smacked into a brick wall. "W—what? What the fuck do you mean stick with me?"

"It makes the most sense!" Izuku proclaimed. "Dragons are creatures of magic after all! And you're a dragonslayer! If I stick with you then we're sure to find more dragons and then maybe by one of them I could—"

"Oh no," Katsuki was swift to interrupt. "Don't even fucking think about it. There is no we, I just fucking met you! And I'm not about to have some pissant monk or half-baked mage following me around getting in my way. You can fuck right off."

Izuku blushed slightly at the vulgar language – it was definitely not the sort of speech he had heard very often in the monastery – and the implication of that last sentence, but he wasn't about to let that deter him. "But I'm sure it's the best way for me to find my magic—"

"Not my problem."

"I won't get in the way!" Izuku promised. "You won't even notice I'm there! I'll be quiet as a mouse."

Katsuki snorted. "Somehow I find that's likely impossible for a person such as yourself."

"Why thank you!" Izuku beamed.

Katsuki scowled at the response. "You really are the village idiot, aren't you?"

"In God's eyes all men are created equally!"

"You are going to fucking die out here, that's all you're going to manage to achieve!"

"Well, I don't know about that, but with you I'm sure—"

"There is no with me!" Katsuki seethed. "I got plans of my own and I'm not interested in babysitting some idiot. Find your own fucking way."

"Well…" Izuku scratched his head in pretend thoughtfulness. "As you said before the roads are still free and I can do whatever I want, as you so eloquently put earlier if I recall correctly. That is what you said, isn't it?" He fought the grin from appearing as Katsuki's own face fell at the comment, not that it took long for the other man to recover.

"How about I threaten you then?" he said with a leer. His hand dropped to his sword hilt, though he didn't make any move to unsheathe the blade. "How about that, you shitty twit? I'll lop your stupid shitty head right off your stupid shitty neck."

"Oh, please." Izuku waved a dismissive hand. "You can stop that now – I know you wouldn't do that. You're not that kind of person."

"How the fuck would you know that?! You don't know the first thing about me!"

"I know you believe in All Might," said Izuku. He met the other man's gaze. "You believe in him as much as I do, or at least did at one time. Someone who believes in that has to be a good person."

Katsuki stared at him, as if in disbelief at the words, before he shook himself. "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Believing in something doesn't make someone a good person just like that."

"Well, no, I suppose not," Izuku allowed. "But believing in something is the first step. And besides..." This time he allowed the grin to show on his face. "I never did say anything about being a good person."

Katsuki's mouth was hanging open slightly, as if unable to form a response, and Izuku supposed this must be what someone looked like when they had become utterly speechless.

"Fuck!" Katsuki abruptly turned and stomped away. If Izuku wasn't mistaken there had actually been a hint of red on his face. "Do whatever you want," he grouched without turning. "Just don't get in my way!"

Izuku smiled. That was a good a yes as he was going to get. Meeting this dragonslayer was sure to be a sign from God that he was finally on his way, moving towards what he wanted to become and what he wanted to achieve. What good fortune he was having today!

He straightened to follow after, jubilance giving him a bounce in his step. "Yes, sir knight!"

"Stop calling me that!"

"Oh, sorry!"

That night they camped in the woods. Rather than going to an inn and sleeping on a bed they would be sleeping on the ground, something which Izuku was still getting used to it but wasn't like he had the funds to afford such luxuries and perhaps not Katsuki either. He got the impression the dragonslayer preferred sleeping out here than going to an inn anyway.

Izuku leaned back on his saddle. In front of him the fire crackled and he stared up at the bright canopy of stars above. If that was one positive thing about sleeping outside it was that it presented such a heavenly view of the stars above. His gaze roved across the sky, picking out and finding the constellations. Draco the dragon, Andromeda the chained maiden, Orion the hunter. The monks had taught him at an early age about the constellations and he traced out each one with his gaze.

A clanging noise brought him back down to earth. Beyond the fire where some food was presently cooking he could see Katsuki unloading his gear. Across the grass were splayed an array of weapons; swords, daggers, a mace, even a bow and several arrows. When a shield landed next to them Izuku saw it was fashioned out of dragon skin. It was an impressive arsenal. A dragonslayer's arsenal.

"How long is it that you have been slaying dragons for?" he asked.

"A long time."

It was a very vague answer but the food over the fire bubbled and Izuku was distracted by his own stomach rumbling in response. The food was nothing but a hearty gruel but after the sparse little he had eaten the last few days the smell was making him absolutely ravenous so he couldn't quite help but stare when Katsuki finally finished unloading all his gear and sat down to eat. He could almost literally feel himself drooling watching the other man eat but he was determined not to say anything. It was not good for a monk to ask charity of others. A monk was supposed to be the one who gave charity, not receive it.

Katsuki must have felt his gaze on him though, for he glanced up and caught him staring. "What?" he snapped.

"Oh, no, it's nothing—" He was interrupted when his stomach let out a growl so loud it drowned out his words. His face reddened. His stomach had no such reservations about asking for charity it seemed. "P—pardon me."

Katsuki scowled. He slapped some of the mess into a bowl then held it out to him. "Here."

"Oh, I couldn't possibly—"

"Just fucking take it. I don't want to listen to your stupid stomach growling all night and with how loud it is it'll likely attract wolves or something else nasty."

Izuku took the bowl. "T—thank you very much."

The amount was hardly much at all, not even half, but Izuku still gratefully bowed his head. Considering the sort of lifestyle Katsuki led it was extremely unlikely he had much. Even this little amount was generous.

He tried to eat with some grace but failed miserably and ended up shoveling it down his face in about fifteen seconds flat. He wiped at his mouth to try and catch any particle he might have missed. "Where do you plan to head to next?"

"I'm going east. There's rumors of a dragon out there."

"Only rumors?" Izuku looked up in slight surprise. He wouldn't have thought that a dragonslayer would travel somewhere simply off of rumors but admittedly he had no idea how dragonslayers worked. "Do you believe there's any truth to them?"

Katsuki shrugged. "If there is and there is indeed a dragon out there I'll find it and kill it."

"Right." Izuku glanced over to his gear. "Do you make much money killing dragons?"

Katsuki snorted. "What kind of question is that? Do I look rich to you?"

Truthfully Izuku was not sure what a rich man would look like. The monks had all dressed the same, simple robes with no adornments, so he wasn't sure what a rich man would dress like. "N—not really but that Jin fellow did pay you so…"

"One bag of gold for one dragon?" The words were incredulous. "You think that's a fair exchange for killing such a beast? I'm risking my life each time I fight one of those things, you know. One bag of gold is hardly a fair exchange for doing something like that."

"Why do it then?"

"Because it's not about the money. The money's just to cover my expenses. I could give a shit less about the money otherwise."

Izuku was curious why he was killing dragons then if it weren't for money, but he suspected if he asked he wouldn't get a direct answer. There were other curiosities that were on his mind besides, ones that had been lingering since he had first encountered Katsuki that he'd rather ask about instead. "Those things that Jin fellow said. Was there any truth to them?" He looked over at Katsuki directly from across the fire. "Did you really used to know the king?"

Katsuki's face creased, almost as if it were closing in on itself, like a door slamming shut. "No," he said shortly.

He put his bowl aside and lay down, turning over so his back faced the fire and Izuku. A clear indication the conversation was over.

Izuku wasn't foolish enough to try and pry or push the subject. After hearing that exchange between Jin and Katsuki he was concededly curious about Katsuki's past but as the monks had taught him history had a way of revealing itself. All it took was patience.

Yawning, feeling quite a bit tired himself, he stretched out along the ground close to the fire and closed his eyes. With another yawn he slipped into a contended sleep.

"You're really good."

Katsuki dropped the sword so hastily it was like it had scalded him. The metal made a dull clank as it fell onto the wooden boards and Katsuki rapidly looked around himself. Feeling his pulse quickening in his temple and the cold sweat already forming on the back of his neck, he tried to find the source of the voice in the horses' stalls.

He knew it was strictly forbidden for him, the lowly son of lowly common servants, to touch the swords of the knights and military men. His parents had reminded him over a dozen times but he just hadn't been able to help himself. And now he might just get his hand cut off for his transgression.

"It's alright." There was a shuffling noise from amongst the straw only a scant few feet away from Katsuki and a head of black shaggy hair popped up. Katsuki took a step back at the unexpectedness of finding someone else there. He had not once suspected that there had been anyone else within the vicinity, much less this close to him, almost literally right under his feet. It was nothing but a boy. A boy who like him appeared to be trying to escape notice. Or possibly hiding from something.

The boy extracted himself from the straw. He was not that much taller than Katsuki though he did appear to be a few years older. His eyes were a light blue but around them the skin looked irritated and inflamed, as though he had been scratching terribly at the flesh there. He was dressed in fine regal clothing, though it was currently covered in straw.

"Here you go." The boy bent down and picked up the fallen sword. He held it out to Katsuki. "You really are quite good."

Katsuki accepted the sword back with only a slight hesitation, relaxing a little. It didn't appear the boy was interested in reporting him and getting him into trouble or even concerned whatsoever about his supposed transgression, only impressed with his skills.

"Would you teach me?"

Katsuki started and nearly dropped the sword again. "W—what?"

"Teach me to use a sword too." The boy smiled at him. It was bright friendly smile that stretched all the way across his face. "You're good enough that you could teach me! You've been learning by yourself, right? That's amazing! You can teach me too!"

Katsuki could scarcely believe what he was hearing. He was only a servant, hardly someone who deserved to even be stepped on by any sort of royalty, much less given a second glance or any sort of acknowledgment. "Y—you want me to teach you?"

"Yeah! I've always wanted to learn!" The other boy scratched at the skin around his eyes before he extended his hand towards Katsuki. "I'm Tomura. What's your name?"

Katsuki stared at the hand as if it were some dangerous creature he was uncertain about before finally tentatively taking it. "Katsuki."

"Katsuki." Tomura smiled that full bright smile again. "Now that we know each other we're friends! So as a friend will you teach me swords? I promise I'll be a good student!"

Katsuki stared at the other boy. There was nothing about him that made it seem like he was being disingenuous or sneaky. If anything he appeared to be nothing but earnest sincerity and openness. Like he really did actually want to be friends.

"Yeah, okay, sure." Katsuki didn't smile often but he did smile slightly then. "If you promise to be a good student then I'll show you what I know."

Tomura's entire face lit up. As if Katsuki had just offered him the entire world. "Alright!" He shook Katsuki's hand vigorously before reaching up to grab Katsuki's shoulders in a comradely fashion. "This is so great! We are going to be great friends, Katsuki!"

"Yeah." Katsuki's smile widened. "I think we are too."

Katsuki opened his eyes. For a few moments he lay there frozen, letting reality fall back around him and trying to recall where exactly he was. It came to him a moment later. In the woods where he had fallen asleep. Against his back he could still feel the warmth of the fire, a jarring reminder this was indeed reality, and when he glanced over his shoulder he saw the fire had not yet burned out. It was still going fairly strongly and across the way Izuku was sound asleep, muttering something about books in his slumber. In the darkness further away he could vaguely make out Izuku's mule and his horse dozing side by side.

Just another dream. That wasn't all that surprising. He got them nearly every night. At least this time it had been a more pleasant one. Not one of the other ones, those ones that always left him sweaty and shaky afterwards. Those one's that involved the time after the incident, when things had taken a dark and nefarious turn and had ultimately led to the shattering of his beliefs. The very same incident that had set him on his current path of hunting and killing.

He turned back over. A frown marred his brow. After all this time he had still not achieved what he had sought to do and he would be lying if he said he hadn't become a bit disillusioned with the whole thing. When he had first set out on his mission he had been filled with a fiery determination fueled by rage. But time had a way of dulling all things and so his rage had dulled from a blazing inferno into a faintly glowing ember, one that might burn out completely if he wasn't careful.

In some ways dragonslaying had become something he simply did out of a force of habit. He had been doing it so long he had no idea what he else he could do if he no longer did that, if in fact he could do anything else. Jin had not been completely incorrect when he had called him a vagabond, it being a pretty accurate description for a man like himself, one who made a living off wandering and killing with no place to call home or return to. Yet he still needed to have a way to make money in order to sustain himself. He wasn't about to join the peasants out in their fields, scraping by what one would hardly call a living under the grinding boot of Tomura. He had too much pride for that. A pride Tomura was partly responsible for.

He had been trying and killing again and again without any success for so long he couldn't help but wonder if all his actions may have been utterly futile. He had still not achieved his goal and nothing had gotten better. It may very well be true that someone else had beaten him to it and the vengeance he had sought was now forever out of his reach.

He pushed the thought out of his mind. It was better not to dwell on such things. The only path he had was to go forward. It wasn't like he had a past he could return to.

He closed his eyes. It was still a long time till morning. He just hoped the rest of the night would be bereft of dreams.