Izuku kept his mother's voice close to his heart as he crawled through the foliage, keeping his body low and his breathing soft and even. No one could know he was here. That he had stayed behind. Izuku wasn't even sure his team realized he was still here, on the cliffs in the woods.
If his team was even awake. He'd been the one to get them all out of the combat zone, unconscious and thrown over his shoulders or on the back of his daemon, Isamu, the large bear able to tote more than Izuku would have alone. Kacchan, Hitoshi, Shouto, and Tenya were going to be so mad when they woke up and found out he wasn't there.
"When everything feels like it's too much, you need to breathe. The first person you see to is yourself Izuku. You can't help anybody if you're not well."
His body trembled. He'd been here for hours already. And still- he wasn't finished. Not even close. So many needed his help still. So many of his people.
The attack had come out of nowhere. They hadn't sensed anyone approaching the village. Izuku knew the neighboring Kingdom had been rather...tense with his own, but outright attacking them? No one had dared.
And yet, he knew that symbol, that particular style of armor, those tactics. The military forces of Izuku's home village- of which Izuku was a member as a combat medic- had responded quickly and driven the force back, out of the city edges. They'd pushed the army backwards, up towards the mountains, towards the woods that covered those mountains.
All the way to this clifface. All the way to this place, where Izuku was covered in dirt and the blood of his friends, his body aching and hands shaking. To this place, where the fighting had erupted in earnest and the woods around him sang with the crackle and snap of fire, where the sounds of screams and magic rose on the air. Where Izuku could hear the calls for a medic.
It was a small mercy that daemons could place themselves into a sort of 'stasis' wherein they became a tattoo on their human's skin. They were still aware, and able to mentally respond to their human, but their physical self was not present in the world.
Isamu was much too large to be hidden the way Izuku needed him to be right now.
He closed his eyes, taking another deep breath, ignoring the sounds of explosions and screams cut short, the calls of agony and the pleading.
He was a medic. It was his job to make sure everyone he could get his hands on lived.
Even here, where it all seemed hopeless, where his forces were outnumbered and out-magicked ten to one.
Izuku's eyes opened, narrowed and determined, as he crawled through the brush, towards the nearest body he could see. His team might have been evacuated out already, but there were still hundreds more waiting for a medic to help them.
Izuku pressed the man's hand- he wasn't sure who this one was- against the wound in his side and commanded him, "Keep pressure here, you understand? Don't let up on it, even if it hurts. I'm getting you home."
The man was crying, but Izuku smiled at him, smiled the way their village leader smiled, wide and determined (and hiding so much fear he could drown in it-) and reassuring.
"It's alright," Izuku comforted him, "I am here."
The man nodded, shaking all over and his breathing near to hyperventilating.
"O-Okay," he agreed, pressing hard on the wound in his side and choking on a cry of pain. "Th-thank you."
Izuku shifted the man's weight, a quick 'this will hurt', the only warning he gave as he lifted the man over his shoulders like the shawl his mother wore in the winter months. The man moaned, but he kept pressure on his wound and that was all that mattered to Izuku.
Izuku kept his body as hidden as he could, darting towards the edge of the cliff, the only way down a narrow but sturdy path most wouldn't see unless they were a local and already knew it was there. Isamu was capable of walking it, and it would hold under his weight.
Enemy forces had spread through the forest, and it wasn't safe to travel the woodland with injured on his back. Not right now, when the two forces were still clashing, and to been seen with injured was to become a target. Izuku had been forced to improvise a way down to the military team below, whom he knew would remain there until the enemy forces were entirely gone from their lands.
Isamu appeared in a shower of golden dust, peeling away from the tribal bear paw tattoo on Izuku's shoulder, and solidifying into the shape of his daemon as the tattoo faded away.
Izuku draped the man over Isamu's back, where the hand not pressing hard into his side twisted into the bear's fur. "Hold on, you're going home," he promised.
Izuku stayed only long enough to make sure Isamu made it to the bottom of the cliff before he whirled around and headed back into the forest. Isamu would fade back into dust once the man was safe and return to the tattoo on his arm, where Izuku would repeat the process of healing everything he could before transporting the injured to the cliff for Isamu to take down.
Shouta loathed being on the sidelines. Absolutely despised it.
He hated it even more when one of his kids- the kids he had taught since they were four, when their Inclinations for magics manifested- where out in hostile territory without him.
The last thing he remembered was Izuku and Hitoshi leaning over him after he'd defeated a Captain Class Berserker, Izuku's voice steady and calm as he promised "You'll be okay, Aizawa-sensei. I've got you. I'm here."
Aizawa hadn't seen a child with such a powerful gift towards Healing Magics in decades. Izuku had taken that to mean he had the best chance of saving everyone if the worst should come to pass. He was determined to be a combat medic for that reason, and Shouta…
Well Shouta couldn't really argue with that logic- not when it was true. So he'd focused instead on making certain that Midoriya Izuku was as prepared as Shouta could make him for the realities of war, and blood, of being the medic out in the middle of a battle. He'd trained with the boy to do exactly what he was doing-but Shouta had thought he'd have more time.
And now here they were, the beginning stages of what could be war on their doorstep, and his problem child was out in the middle of all of it.
Worse- Shouta could see his team sprawled out on stretchers around the tent he was in, and that meant Izuku was alone.
Shouta scowled down at his leg, too injured to do anything more than he had for now.
He turned his eyes to the other kids.
They were the four members of Izuku's combat squad for this mission, and each of them were here. All injured. The Healer in charge of the tent- Chiyo- had told him they'd been caught in a magic explosion of some kind. It had injured each of them enough to knock them unconscious, and Shouta was not looking forward to when they woke up and it was explained to them that Izuku was still up on the cliffside.
Shouta twitched with the need to get up and hunt down his Problem Child.
Why did he always get himself into these messes.
This entire class was worse than his last three, combined.
Izuku leaned back against the tree he had chosen, close to the cliffside but hidden from most angles of sight, and with cover just in case someone on the other side had long range magics.
His breathing was labored, and quick and he ached all over. His hands shook with fatigue, and he tipped his head back against the tree.
"One more," he whispered softly into the air. "Just let me find one more."
With a quick held inhale, Izuku shoved himself back to his feet and staggered a little. He was running out of magic.
"One more," he promised, as he slid back into the foliage, exhausted but near silent.
Izuku found his 'one more' and when she was transported down the cliff, he closed his eyes and prayed- promised- yet again:
Over and over again. He would go until he couldn't anymore. He'd save everyone he could.
This was why he had chosen to become a medic capable of combat after all. Situations where his magics were the only hope some of the soldiers had.
"I'm here, I'm here, easy."
He held the wild blue eyes of the man he had found in the rubble of the forest. He couldn't see past the mud, blood and dirt to see who he was helping, all he knew was it was one of his. One of his villagers.
His hands had stopped trembling, remarkably steady as he brought his magic to the forefront, focusing on wounds he had found, that were or would threaten this man's life. His legs were broken in multiple places and it was difficult work to use magic to ease bones back into skin and into the correct places, even as he closed sword wounds, and kept an eye out for internal bleeding.
"You're going to go home, okay? I promise. I have you."
"I-Izu-?" the man's voice cracked like it was painful to talk, but Izuku recognized the voice and his heart dropped into his feet.
The dirt and blood had coated him so well Izuku hadn't even recognized Tenya's brother.
"G-get-" Tensei choked, "Run. Run, he's- he's still here, Izuku, run!"
Izuku ducked low, leaning over his patient automatically as his instincts screamed. A sword flew past his head, sinking deeply into the trunk of the tree ahead of him.
He looked over his shoulder, and his heart skipped a beat in his chest. He knew that man. Everyone in the village knew that man. He was a mercenary known as 'Stain' who had killed many mages.
Nobody knew how he kept doing it. How he kept going against such skilled mages of such different magics, and still won.
"Tensei," Izuku's voice was low, even as he shifted to place himself between the threat and his patient. "What is his magic? I need to know his magic."
Tensei seemed dazed, like it was hard to focus, but he answered after a still moment "Blood Magic. Get away, Izu."
Izuku cursed under his breath even as he firmed his stance in front of the downed mage. He lifted his hands, widening his stance as he tracked the man with his eyes. "I'd never be able to look Tenya in the eye again if I ran away. Besides, I signed up to be a medic, and than means helping everyone I can, no matter what is in my way!"
Stain tilted his head, the call of a crow echoing over the air as his daemon flew from the trees to perch on his shoulder.
"You…" the man trailed off, gaze focused as his other sword lowered from Izuku and Tensei. "...are very different from the rest of this rabble."
Izuku didn't have a chance to respond, the next movement from Stain too fast to follow with his eyes, as he darted forward and pulled his sword free of the trunk it had sunken into.
He breathed shakily. There was no way he'd manage this one on his own- not without quite a bit of luck, and surprise on his side….
...or...his eyes darted down to Tensei, laid out behind him.
Or someone older, with more experience to help him.
Izuku shook, his legs folding out from underneath him.
What in the name of the One Magic was that thing?
Granted it had saved his and Tensei's life, but it was…
It was unnatural.
Izuku could sense how the magics inside it clashed and fought, the flow raging under the skin as black as night, sparking across the exposed brain. It was against nature, heinous and wrong to his senses in a way that grated and hurt. If he didn't know any better he would say it was one of the Berserkers of the neighboring Kingdom, but everything about it felt wrong. Out of synch with the world. A discordant note to the song of the earth.
It had come out of nowhere, barrelled into Stain and knocked him away from a killing blow that would have taken both his and Tensei's life.
But Izuku knew better than to think it was on his side. Not when it was obviously indiscriminate with its rage and destruction. It had been nothing more than chance that it had gotten between the two of them and Stain.
Still- the rogue mage was otherwise occupied.
Izuku reached down and hauled Tensei over his shoulders, turning and running after he weaved a subtle bit of magic over them both that encouraged the targets to overlook them, ignore signs of their passing.
When actively the focus of someone's attention- as they had been with Stain earlier- it wouldn't work, but with the thing focused on Stain and Stain on it, Izuku had a small chance.
Only a small one.
Once he was clear of this, he would summon Isamu and hope his daemon could outrun any troubles that may try to follow them.
He needed to make it back to his village, to warn them of whatever affront to magic that black thing had been, if nothing else.
Izuku buried his nose into Isamu's fur, leaning over Tensei's limp form. He was still alive, thank the One Magic for small mercies.
Still, Izuku continued to channel his magic in a complex weave behind him. It was meant to keep whatever the beast had been away from his village. It would be incapable of sensing or otherwise following Izuku and anyone else behind the barrier while it was kept active.
It wouldn't be permanent. The art of Wards had been lost long ago, and only whatever had been done in ancient times remained.
He would make this last only long enough to pass his knowledge along. Only long enough for other mages- ones who specialized with Protection Magic- ones who had an Inclination and thus could cast the more powerful spells of that Magic Class for less power- to take over what he was doing.
He was too low on magic to be doing this really, but what else was he to do when his people were in danger and unaware they needed to shield from it?
Chizome flicked the blood of the beast off his sword, turning his attention towards the young mage who had acted so differently from all the other mages he had found.
After stretching his senses out, he laughed.
Oh, what a clever boy.
The only reason Chizome knew where they were all all, was he still had a faint sense of the man he had been ready to kill before the boy had gotten in the way. Even though he knew which direction they had gone, he still couldn't track them via the blood magic he was using on the eldest of the pair.
That was powerful magic, for one so young.
Chizome decided he rather liked him.
He'd allow the boy to keep his life, and the life of his patient for this most excellent find. He'd be keeping an eye on that boy.
He had potential.
Isamu rushed down the cliffside, running with his full gait as he approached the camp of personnel. The medics who had gotten so used to his coming and going moved quickly out of his way when Isamu did not slow for them as he had before.
He had a goal in mind this time, a target.
His human had vital information to pass along to the Guardian Class Mages in the camp, and every moment counted.
Ishiyama Ken reared back in surprise as Isamu slid to a stop in front of him. "Sir," Izuku's voice exhausted and cracking came from his daemon's back before the Guardian could ask any questions.
"Sir, please- I need you to ready a squad of Inclined Guardians for a rotating shift. I can't- I don't have enough magic to hold this in place for much longer."
Ken startled. It was very difficult to weave large magics that were not related to one's Inclination and hold them in place, as it drained the user much quicker than it would otherwise. The more powerful an Inclination to a different Class of magic, the more difficult it became to hold and power a large spellwork for the opposing Class of magic.
Ken reached out, and carefully took the threads of magic he could sense Izuku was holding, shifting delicate threads so that he was the one providing them power.
As soon as the boy was freed of the magic, he slumped over with a harsh exhale, and a whispered, "Isamu."
Ken wasn't sure what the bear daemon was doing before it began a quick trot back towards the medical tents.
It was only as Izuku shoved himself up and leaned backwards that Ken spotted the body draped over the Isamu's shoulders.
Ken allowed the medics to pull the male- Tensei!- down and then help Izuku to his feet before he spoke, "Izuku? I'm going to need you to explain what happened. What did you come across that you felt such a powerful Guardian Class spell was necessary? The only reason you are not suffering Drain is how compatible Guardian Class magics are with Healing Class magics."
"I-" the boy paused, leaning heavily into Isamu's bulk even as the other medics began to fuss over him "It was like nothing I have ever seen." he breathed in the silence. "A being- creature- that was a clashing combination of opposing magics to my senses. Skin as black as tar, wide vacant eyes, and his very brain exposed to air. It was a being of destruction and death, and it would not stop until it was dead….it is only due to this creature's appearance that Tensei and I managed to escape the clutches of the Mage-Killer Stain."
Ken paused a fraction a second before he quickened the pace with which he was strengthening the spells Izuku had already layered. "Very well. Go see the medics, young man. The rest of these questions can wait. You have saved many lives this day- it is only fair that you be looked after yourself now. We will take care of this."
Izuku sagged into the hands reaching for him even as Isamu dissolved into a shower of golden dust and formed the tribal paw-print on Izuku's shoulder.