Izuku sits atop his favorite meditation rock, legs crossed over his lap with his hands at his sides. His fingers dig into the moss covering the top of his stone perch, tickling the skin of his finger tips. The waterfall behind him breathes a wave of newfound peace into his veins, as if it was washing away everything negative that weighed so heavily on his chest. Izuku takes another deep breath of the fresh mountain air, letting it out slow so as not to break the aura of calm that has come to wrap around his shoulders like the new chief’s robes he would be donning tonight at his tribe’s Shujin Ceremony.
Elder Gran Torino, his tribe’s oldest living chief, would be presenting the robes previously worn by his mentor Chief Toshinori before his disappearance.
He refuses to believe Chief Toshinori is dead. He wouldn’t run off and leave his people without another word to die somewhere alone. He wouldn’t.
Izuku sighs, already wishing the warm blanket of inner peace could cover the roaring worries within himself.
He’s the only leader of any of the tribes among the Kizuna Clan to be an omega. Being an omega wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but many tribes considered male omegas a Norou, a bad omen, due to their inability to bear offspring. Including his.
Chief Toshinori had stood up for him after he’d proven himself, but the previous chief was no longer here, and it was now entirely up to him to keep the peace within his people and dispel the myth of his presence being a punishment sent upon his tribe by their Gods.
Izuku tentatively runs his fingertips over the solid black doe inked on his right hip, something that would forever mark him as an omega. Over the years as his status within the tribe grew under Chief Toshinori’s guidance, his tattoo became more and more intricate and embellished. Feathers and jewels hung off of the doe’s body to symbolise his rank, but the fact remained that he was still branded with a doe and not a lion like all of the leaders that have ruled before him. Regardless of what tattoo he’s presented with to mark his back as the new chief, he will always be branded with his doe.
“Izuku-kun, are you doing all right?”
Izuku casts his glance over to where his childhood friend and loyal beta Uraraka crouches by the edge of the river, soiled linens in hand. She rests the clothes against a rock as she wades knee deep to find the perfect spot to begin her washing.
“I’ll be okay, Uraraka. There’s no need to worry.” Izuku reassures her with a small smile that he hopes somewhat placate her worries.
“I’ve known you my whole life, Izuku-kun. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a friend if I didn’t worry about you.” She replies, tossing her freshly soaked linen to the side so she could cross her arms over her chest to level him with a stern look. “You can tell me anything, you know that.”
Izuku sighs, curling his fingers into the flesh of his thighs as he bites his lip. He doesn’t want to burden her with baseless worries that are his problem to face alone.
“It’s about being the new chief, isn’t it?” Uraraka asks, striking the heart of the problem as always. She was never one to skirt around negative feelings to comfort others.
Izuku nods his confirmation, lowering his head to watch his reflection ripple with the movement of the river. Just underneath the surface he can see minnows swimming freely and carelessly together as they dart through the algae covered rocks of the riverbed. What he wouldn’t give to switch places with them for a day to forget all the responsibilities that are weighing him down.
“Izuku-kun, you’re a brilliant strategist and a good leader. Remember when you lead that group of scavengers through the uncharted Shikan Mountains a few years ago?” She says, soft smile making the pink of her cheeks stand out.
Izuku smiles at the memory. He remembers those months fondly, bonding with Iida and Shinsou and the rest of the tribe’s top warriors and scavengers as they created a map of the deadly mountain range. Chief Toshinori had been so proud of him when they’d returned, his smile blinding in comparison to his usual one.
“The tribe may have their doubts about you since you’re an omega, but you’ve constantly proven them wrong. You’re a strong person, and if there’s anyone that could rise above this, it’s you.” Uraraka continues, picking up both his hands and taking them within hers. He’s unsure of when she managed to sneak up on him, but he’s grateful for the grounding the physical touch brings him.
“Thank you, Uraraka.” He says, fighting back a too large smile from forming. What did he ever do to deserve a childhood friend as kind hearted as her?
Izuku hops off his rock perch to stand on the grassy river shore.
“The sun is setting. I should return to the village before dark falls.”
Uraraka nods in agreement. “Go on then. Don’t want to miss your Shujin tattoo ceremony, yeah?”
Izuku gives her a brief farewell before beginning his trek back to the tribe, keeping his pace slow to just enjoy the peacefulness of the forest and the life harbored within it. He watches as squirrels hop from branch to branch, eagles soar through the clouds overhead, and deers prance between the partings of the forest brush. To be so at one with all of Earth’s life around him sets his soul more at ease than any riverside meditation or pep talk with Uraraka ever really could.
Izuku smiles as he reaches the beginning of his tribe’s land, a small valley hidden in the crevices of the Blanca mountain range, safe from the rage and wars of the tribes that lived at the base of the mountains. He watches fondly as the youth chase butterflies through the flowers just beginning to bloom along the outskirts of the village, laughter filling the air.
A slight breeze pushes the hair away from his face, another wave of peace flowing over him as he walks on. He sends brief greetings to each merchant and trader of their market place, making a mental note to stop by the next morning so he could purchase some of the fruits that Kurogi swipes from the trees that only grow in the Chikara territory. The fruit was almost sugary and very sweet, a stark comparison to the brash and brute nature of the Chikara tribe themselves.
Izuku pulls back the entrance to the traditional ceremonial tent, bowing to nearly ninety degrees once the canvas was closed behind him.
“I-I apologize for being late! I was by the river and lost track of time.”
Shinsou waves him off, already used to the way he’d spend hours in the woods appreciating the life around him. Elder Gran Torino sighs with a shake of his head but says nothing more. His mother Inko smiles at him.
“The important thing is that you arrived before it was too close to sunset.” She reassures, ushering him to the center of the intricately woven carpet to sit on the deep crimson pillow set for him. The same pillow that Chief Toshinori had sat on during his Shujin tattooing, and Elder Torino before him, and the Chief before him, and so forth and so on.
Izuku takes in a shaky breath, trying his best to keep his previous anxieties at bay. He just needs to get through the Shujin tattooing and ceremony tonight, and then all the tribe’s excitement would taper back down to where it usually is.
“Chief Deku, please remove your shirt so I can begin the Shujin tattoo.” Shinsou instructs, taking a seat behind him and placing his pots of black ink off to the side.
Izuku shrugs off his shirt to hang around his waist, shivering as his bare skin comes in contact with the chilly air of the setting evening. He takes a deep breath, in and out, steeling himself for the pain that’s to come of the brandishing needle. Shinsou runs his the pad of his thumb over Izuku's spine. He traces the symbol for their God of Hope, Kibou, out of the blessed oil in traditional Heitan custom. It was supposed to be a blessing that the new chief would live a long life and bring prosperity to the tribe.
The first touch of the branding needle burns, and he bites his lip to keep back his squeal of pain. Shujin tattoos are supposed to be more painful than the ones that marked one’s presentation were. It was considered the sign of a true leader to bear such a pain so that the tribe may continue to live. That was the duty of a chief, one that Izuku will now bear with a smile until his death.
As the ink of the tattoo dribbles down his back while Shinsou works, his mind begins to grow fuzzy and the world distant. He has flashes of images depicting his tribe; fire and death, chaos and madness. He sees himself staring into the jaws of a dragon before being swallowed whole by it. His throat burns with the faint taste of ash and acid as tears threaten to fall from his eyes. A shriek of pain is ripped from his lips as he’s forced to feel the dredges of phantom pain and sorrow.
Izuku finally rips away from the vision, chest heaving as he fights for breaths of the peaceful mountain air to dissolve the lingering touch of the misery and horror he’d been plunged into.
“Chief Deku, you need to breathe deeply. In and out.” A calm and steady voice calls out to him, but he can’t pinpoint exactly whose it is. He follows the instructions regardless, shakily taking in deep breaths and letting them out through his mouth.
“What did you see?” Another voice asks, lacking the concern of the other voice as if they’d seen this happen during the Shujin tattoo ceremony several times before.
Izuku shakes his head, unwilling to share the horrors he’d just witnessed. He hopes that if he keeps the vision to himself it won’t come true.
“Izuku, you’re burning up. We need to move you outside.” His mother’s voice finally cuts through the fog in his mind, finally snapping him back to the present.
“N-No, I’ll be fine. Please finish the ceremony.” Izuku rasps, between deep breaths.
Elder Gran Torino and Inko share a look between each other but say nothing more. Shinsou’s hands return to his back, tracing the sign for the God of Hope once more.
“Chief Deku, your Shujin tattoo has already been completed. May Kibou watch over you and bless every step of the way.”
Izuku practically bolts out of Shinsou’s tent once the tattoo ceremony is officially completed, running off towards his own abode hidden within the trees and away from the core of the village. He shakes his head as he closes the door to his tiny living area and pushes the vision to the back of his mind. He has a duty as the new chief tonight to accept his tribe’s blessings and partake in the festivities celebrating his crowning. It was only a vision, and visions didn’t necessarily always come true. Right?
Izuku changes out of his commoner’s cloth and into the delicately woven furs and animal hides of a chief. He plays with the feathers that decorate the edges of the robes and almost entirely make up his headdress until they sit correctly. He takes another deep breath in and out before leaving his abode, running his hands over the flora that surrounds the trail that leads back to the village center.
A large fire has already bet set within the fire pit, and different delicacies have been set to cook amongst its outskirts. Most of the tribe has already gathered, conversing over rare berry delicacies and cups of fresh spring water. He smiles shyly as his arrival is announced, accompanied by cheers and hurrahs.
The night goes on filled with laughter, feasts, and dancing. Izuku watches in awe as the great warriors of his tribe present the oldest dance of their tribe that’s said to fend off evil. He shows off his own dance as the new chief, one that changes to suit each individual that dons the title yet still tells the story of how the land came to be. His vision is all but forgotten by the time the moon is high in the night sky.
Izuku sits between the tribe’s top fighter, Iida, and Iida’s chosen mate, Uraraka. He remembers the standard trial for potential mates to prove their worth to Iida fondly; Uraraka had practically demolished the competition, for she fought to be rightfully mated with the man she loved. It had been startling to the rest of the tribe to see a deemed gatherer end up victorious, but Izuku had not been the least bit surprised. She was the most determined of anyone bar him to overcome the limits that had been cast upon her since birth.
“Chief, do you sense that?” Shinsou interrupts his reminiscing with a tap to his shoulder. He takes a moment to just feel the world around him, and indeed senses something coming from the hidden trail that leads the edge of Heitan territory down to the base of the mountain.
“Shinsou, I need you to keep everyone calm. I’m going to go figure out what is causing such a rift in aura. Iida, I need you to come with me.” Izuku instructs, standing to full attention. “Should I not return within a reasonable time frame, help the tribe escape as quickly and quietly as possible.”
Shinsou opens his mouth as if to protest but thinks better of it, bowing his head instead.
Izuku stands with the help of Iida, slipping away from the festivities as quietly as they can. He takes a deep breath as he walks the path to where a group of what he can only assume is another tribe is gathered. The closer they get to the source of the odd amiss feeling, the less sure he feels of his decision to only bring Iida along with him. From where they are, he can easily make out at least ten warriors surrounding a fairly large wooden cart.
“Chief Deku, do you want me to warn the others?” Iida asks, watching him with concern.
It’s tempting to say yes, but in the end Izuku shakes his head.
“We don’t know what they’re here for yet. They could just be passing through and looking for a place to spend the night as they travel over the mountain range.” He replies, rolling his bottom lip between his teeth and praying to the Gods that’s all that would amount from the strangers.
Iida is silent for awhile, looking over him with a silent eye before sharply nodding.
“As you wish.”
Izuku breaths out a sigh of relief that’s cut off with a wince as the unwelcome party of strangers start up rounds of loud chanting and cheering. He closes his eyes and breaths in deeply, exhaling before opening them again to find the entire group of foreigners had fallen silent and were staring at him.
“My name is Chief Deku. I wish to speak to the leader of your party.” Izuku addresses them, shoving down the vile feeling that something bad was about to happen deep into the recesses of his brain. If he kept thinking bad things would happen, then bad things were only sure to happen.
There’s murmurs and jeers tossed around between the men that make up the small party, but eventually they all make way for the leader: a tall, blonde man with red eyes and a sharp-toothed smirk. He wears a fur trimmed cape around his shoulders and pants slung low around his hips to show off the wolf that snarls in ink on his stomach. His left arm bears an ebony dragon that winds from the top of his hand and out to his chest, a classic mark bestowed to the top warrior of only one tribe.
“Chikara.” Izuku whispers under his breath, much to the pleasure of the unwanteds if their growing laughter and smirks was anything to go by.
“You expect me to believe a scrawny little omega like you are the chief of this shit tribe?” The man laughs, grin ever widening. “Bring me Toshinori, and stop wasting my time.”
The new ink on his back burns at the insult being cast down to him. He grits his teeth to hold back the words he truly wants to say to the invader. Iida speaks before he can, arms crossed over his chest in a form of intimidation that only serves to light a flame in the other’s eyes.
“You should mind the way you speak to the chief. You are already unwelcome guests.” Iida says, trying his best to create a looming presence using the few inches of height he has on the Chikara warrior but comes up short in the end.
“So what you’re telling me is that Chief Toshinori is dead?”
Izuku's confidence falters slightly.
“Then where is he?” The warrior asks, impatience dripping off of each word like venom.
“I-It doesn’t matter! I am Chief Deku of the Heitan Tribe, and you will respect my authority while on Heitan land.” Izuku musters up the courage to say, legs shaking as he barely manages to contain the fear coursing through him.
“Will I?” The warrior laughs, cocking an eyebrow at him before turning to the group of Chikara tribe behind him. “Did you hear that? The ikidomari thinks he can order me around.”
Izuku inwardly seethes at the laughs and jeers coming from the unwelcome tribe, but it’s against Heitan code to attack unprovoked—not that he’d be able to do much before the Chikara warrior would strike him down.
“Chikara!” The warrior calls to bring his men to attention, eyes never leaving Izuku's as his gaze seems to fall dark with a sick amusement that only serves to twist the Chief’s stomach into knots. “Mush!”
Izuku is suddenly struck by the vision he’d had earlier of the dragon with red eyes, a devilish smirk, and beautiful red scales. He can see the beast morphing into the man that stands before him, fire and brimstone seeming to roll off him in waves that scream nothing but sheer power and strength.
“Iida, go to the village! Help get everyone out to safety!” Izuku yells over the chaos that has enveloped the mountain’s once peaceful forest night.
Iida opens his mouth as if to protest but thinks better of it, bowing to his Chief before making his run back to where the celebration had been taking place moments before. Iida was the fastest of the tribe by far; it was extremely unlikely Chikara would catch him before warning at least a few of the other fighters.
Izuku turns back to the Chikara warrior, hands turning into fists at his sides as the helpless screams of his people fill his ears and the taste of ash from the burning trees fills his lungs.
“Who are you?” Izuku manages to shout out, teeth clenched in his own form of a snarl. Unshed tears make his vision blurry and hazy, but he fights not to let any fall in front of the monster before him.
The warrior smirks above him, wrapping a strong hand around Izuku's throat and gripping hard as he lifts the small Chief off the ground so they were eye level. Izuku gasps for breath as his airway gets cut off, desperately trying to pry off the suffocating fingers of the Chikara fighter.
“Bakugou Katsuki. Burn the name of the one that destroyed your tribe into your useless skull, ikidomari. It’ll probably be the last thing you ever do.”