Disclaimer: The Legend of the Legendary Heroes is the property of Takaya Kagami. I am but a humble fan who adores his characters and setting, is merely borrowing them for a short time, and will return them uninjured when done.
Timeline: This takes place during episode 20; however, it would be a good idea to have seen episode 24 before reading this, too. (They have to make a second season. They just have to! Am I right or am I right?)
So much work to do. So much never-ending work. Finish one stack of papers, and there are another ten waiting to be dealt with. It doesn't leave much time for anything other than work, really. Eslina and Calne and everyone keep saying, 'get some sleep for once', 'actually eat something substantial', 'keep your health up'. But this work has to get done as soon as possible. Even a slight delay could cause everything up to now to be for nothing.
For this reason, Sion wasn't quite sure why he found himself just walking through the halls of the castle. All things considered, he decided he must have been headed somewhere to retrieve some important document or another that he'd left in another room, but he couldn't quite recall what it was.
Maybe their advice about sleep wasn't unfounded after all – he admittedly hadn't gotten any in days. If it was affecting his focus this much, maybe he could squeeze in an hour. Once he'd retrieved whatever it was he had set out to retrieve and finished with it, anyway.
He kept walking. He wasn't sure where he was going, but he kept walking. Wherever it was he had been headed, it had to be in this direction, right? It was just a temporary lapse in his memory. As soon as he reached it, he was sure he'd remember what he had come out here for.
Eventually, however, as he walked through the halls, a figure suddenly appeared in front of him, bringing a sharp contrast from the empty moonlight that had bathed the path so far. Sion's feet stopped walking of their own volition as he realized just who this figure was, staring out the window.
A tall, skinny figure, whose dark, messy hair always made it look like he had only just woken up, and whose equally dark eyes were eternally sleepy-looking, but who somehow managed to look almost ethereal, bathed in moonlight as he was.
But this shouldn't have been possible. Ryner had left Roland. He had disappeared without a word, and then when he had been found, he had fled with the other Magic Eye bearer, the one who devoured humans and magic. And when Sion had tried to stop him…
Don't! All troops, fire arrows! Kill him! Kill that monster!
Even though it hadn't referred to Ryner in the least, the look on his face when he had heard Sion utter that word, as though to say so, you really are no different from everyone else… He had been in such pain, and Sion had only gone and hurt him further. It was no wonder he had left.
And yet here he was, in the castle, staring calmly out the window at the moon, as though nothing had happened.
"R-Ryner?" Sion couldn't stop himself from calling out to him.
Ryner turned, seemingly somewhat surprised upon hearing himself being addressed. "Sion?"
"What are you doing here?"
A light shrug. "Didn't really feel like sleeping, so I've just been wandering around aimlessly for a while. The moon's really bright tonight, have you noticed?"
That wasn't what Sion had meant. Ryner had disappeared. He wasn't supposed to be in the castle, or anywhere in Roland at all. That he was here…
…Maybe it was a hallucination. Yes, that wouldn't be surprising, all things considered. He'd heard that those sometimes happened, when one had gone without sleep this long. Oh well, if he needed to stop for an hour that much, it couldn't be helped. Just as soon as he found what he had come looking for.
Hallucination or not, though, Sion smiled cheerfully. He wasn't about to let an opportunity to torment his best friend pass him by. "You, not feel like sleeping? The world must be ending."
An annoyed, indignant glare – the intended reaction. "Oi, at least I do sleep! Unlike a certain someone I could name who's made it his goal to banish sleep from Roland entirely!"
Sion's smile only became more playful. "I'm sure I have no idea who you're talking about."
"Like hell you don't, you enemy of Afternoon Naps everywhere! You demon!"
On the outside, Sion laughed cheerfully for a moment. On the inside, however, he felt a pang of guilt. Demon. Monster. How many times had Ryner heard those words? Been referred to as such awful things? And he himself had done a brilliant job, using such a word himself, hadn't he.
After a moment, his laughter stopped, and his smile disappeared.
"About the orders I gave the Taboo Breaker Pursuit Squadron… I'm sorry."
Ryner's expression shifted briefly from confused surprise to one of sadness. He attempted to hide it with a forced smile, but Sion could still see through it. "You're still thinking about that, Sion? I told you, I get it. You had to do that. You're the king. No one would follow you if they found out you were keeping a monster like me around. Not without a plan for when things go wrong."
"You're wrong, Ryner!" Sion said, quickly, desperately. "It's not like that at all! That order… I gave it to them entirely for your sake!"
"Haa?" Ryner turned a little more toward Sion. "Ordering my death, for my sake? Listen to yourself a minute."
"But it was for your sake, Ryner," Sion insisted. "I will completely change this country, but it's going to take time. The foolish prejudices of Roland's people run deep, and they're not going to change overnight. If they found out that you were a bearer of the Alpha Stigma, you know what they'd want, unless I convinced them otherwise."
"By ordering my execution yourself, you mean."
"Only if you go berserk or turn traitor! They can't do anything to you unless that happens! And Ryner, you… When I told you that you're the person who I trust the most, I meant it." Sion looked directly into Ryner's eyes. "There is no doubt in my heart. You would never betray me, and you can control yourself. That's why…"
"You're my best friend," Sion continued. His voice started to waver a little, but he ignored it. "You're the most important person in the world to me, Ryner. If I lost you, I don't know what I would do…"
"O-Oi, oi," Ryner replied uneasily, waving his hands in order to attempt to calm the emotions running wild in the air. "There's no need to cry, you idiot! Really, I get it, I get it!"
Cry? Sion reached up to touch his cheek, and found that it had, in fact, become slightly damp without his noticing. Ah, he was crying, wasn't he.
He wasn't supposed to do that. He was the king. He was supposed to be the pillar of Roland's strength. He wasn't supposed to show this kind of weakness in front of anyone, not even his best friend.
And yet… somehow, doing so felt as though he was relieving himself of at least the slightest weight from a huge, unbearable burden. As though it was something he desperately wanted, needed even.
He brushed his tears away with his hand and smiled. "I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right!" Ryner responded with a huff.
And Sion laughed at that. "Of course you are."
Suddenly, the setting was different. …No, perhaps the setting had changed gradually, but he hadn't noticed because he had been too focused on Ryner. But regardless, at some point, the moonlight had begun to turn everything a bloody scarlet, instead of a natural pale blue. The hallway had disappeared, as well, giving way to only a barren wilderness.
Now, Ryner had a glum expression once again.
"We both know that even that isn't the whole reason."
And Sion could only watch speechlessly as his friend's clothing transformed, into that which a jester would wear.
…Into the clothes of a sad, lonesome demon.
Sion awoke with a start, nearly hitting his head on the back of his chair.
Yes, his chair. He was in his study, at his desk, where he usually could be found these days. It was still dark outside – he supposed he must have been working through the night again.
"…A dream, huh…"
That would explain why he had forgotten where he had been headed – it was hard to remember what had never been decided in the first place, after all. Still, that his body had protested so much as to fall asleep without his noticing… Perhaps he ought to sneak in an hour after all.
After finishing this one last pile of papers on his desk, anyway. These absolutely had to be finished by morning, after all. One small delay could cause the downfall of everything he had worked for up until now, and he wasn't about to let that happen.
He reached for the top document on the stack and began to read it. After just the first line, however, he suddenly stood up, clutching the paper and staring at it in shock.
Ryner Lute is returning to Roland of his own volition.
Returning to Roland.
He should have been happy. A part of him was happy. His best friend had decided to return to Roland. He would be able to see him again, to tease him again, to torment him again, to laugh with him again, to simply be with him again.
We both know that even that isn't the whole reason.
Of course it wasn't.
It could never be the whole reason. Not as long as Ryner had what he had inside of him. Not as long as Sion had what he had inside of him.
To apologize to Ryner, to tell him what was happening, to allow his best friend to shoulder even the tiniest portion of the burden he bore…
To create a world where everyone, including Ryner, would be able to live happily, and to live in such a world with him…
It was all an empty, unfulfillable dream, and his soul cried out in despair at such a reality.