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The last time they saw each other, Ryuuko had been covered in blood, bequeathing the burdens of his unfulfilled wishes in a frantic voice even as his body grew lighter and vanished into dust.

Now, as he stands face to face with Shirogane again, he thinks: Without the Inshi of Light, without his position as Direct Royal of the Rei, without the balance of the world grasped in both their hands—what is he now, in Shirogane's eyes?

But he only says, "You... have been looking for me? I'm a little touched, to be honest."

Shirogane snaps, "The balance of the world has been in absolute disarray without the Direct Royal of the Rei, you fool. Do you know how much I've had to do since you've been gone?"

It makes Ryuuko smile. "Ha ha. I'm sorry, Shirogane. It's been hard on you. But if that is so, then we can both rest assured now. That boy has inherited my role, my powers, and my identity. With him there, you have a counterpart again. He will be a capable king. So there is nothing more to worry about..."

As a Tuner, as a Direct Royal, and as Shirogane's partner, Nikaido Akira has reached and surpassed Ryuuko in every way. He and Shirogane can protect this world together as the two kings who are opposites and counterparts to each other. As for Ryuuko, he is no longer needed, and he must know when to step aside.

Even so...

"It's good to see you like this, Shirogane," Ryuuko continues. "Out of everyone, you were the one I most couldn't rest easy about. I wondered, who else would be able to put up with you?"

Shirogane says, voice shaking, "Is that why you came back, Ryuuko? Just to tell me such nonsense?"

"Ha ha." Ryuuko can't help smiling. "I think I'm also being a little selfish. I didn't want the image of me that you remember to be so pitiful. I was also a King, after all..."

Was.

All around them, the boundless grey sky stretches on.

Ryuuko continues, "Now, there is no longer any reason for me to continue existing. Still, if there is one thing I will miss..." He averts his eyes from the sky and back to Shirogane. "I think, when I visited the world of darkness, it wasn't always on business. I think I just liked being around you."

On those days, he and Shirogane would sit on the balcony beneath the neverending sky, and talk about everything from Kou and the Secondary Kings to the mundane and inconsequential details of the world below. Time had stretched on like a grey sea, boring and endless, and in those moments Ryuuko had believed those days would last forever.

In the end, they hadn't.

Ryuuko continues, "You were right, Shirogane. I shouldn't have wasted time. I didn't realise just how precious time was, until it ran out."

"Ryuuko, you..."

Shirogane hugs him, and all the breath is knocked from Ryuuko's lungs as they collide. Shirogane's hands tighten over his back and trap him there, so close Ryuuko can feel him breathe, and Shirogane says, "Do you know just how long I..."

"Sorry, Shirogane." Ryuuko leans his head against Shirogane's shoulder and closes his eyes. "I've kept you waiting again."