“And in the two hundred and forty fourth year of the war, the wielder of the Monado, great Lord Zanza, the lord of all Bionis and all those residing upon it, faced innumerable hordes on the battlefield, falling at the hands of the cowardly Mechon.”
A wail came from the crowd, probably originating from someone who had been paid to be upset. Shulk wondered how his father’s body had no wounds, and how the Monado had been recovered if he was overcome by a horde. Especially as his father had been confined to his bed by a shaking sickness for the last two weeks and was not even able to leave his room, let alone Zanais.
But he shouldn’t be cynical. This was his father, lying on the pyre. Dead. He shouldn’t question the official line; there was no use to questioning it. He should be sad thinking about the waste of life (his father had aged so rapidly, but he was only forty. Shulk could only hope that the Monado would not do the same to him), his lost family member, and the loss to his people or subjects or however he was meant to think of them.
He felt empty other than the overwhelming sense of dread. He had...not anticipated this moment coming so quickly, and that just added to his anxiety about what was to come. He knew that he would be the successor to the title of Lord Zanza; he’d known that for a year now, but he never thought it would come so soon.
His grandfather was still alive only three years ago. He had been killed by Mechon during the war that started outside of living Homs memory, though now he doubted whether his grandfather was killed by Mechon at all.
The Monado killed his father. Shulk saw from the beginning how he had to fight against it for the whole time he wielded it, but he’d never expected it to just decide to take everything a little further and age his body like that and bring a sickness upon him. There were whispers that he was unworthy, and that was why he was killed, which made Shulk afraid.
His father was the perfect Lord. He knew he would inherit the title from birth; there was never anyone else, and he trained all his life. He was so perfectly composed and regal at every moment, yet the Monado judged him as unworthy to rule the Bionis.
Shulk was practically the opposite of his father. Unprepared and unfit for rule in pretty much every way. The Monado would probably kill him the moment he tried to take it up. Hopefully it would just be fast, rather than the slow, drawn-out process of his father’s decline. He couldn’t realistically hope for anything more.
He had two weeks. Two weeks was the allotted mourning time, in which the Monado would lie on top of his father’s grave, as the ‘spirit of foresight drained from his body and back to its home’. In reality, Shulk could take up the Monado today and gain the gift of foresight, but that was not what tradition dictated and Shulk wasn’t going to argue with that. He wanted his life to last as long as it could.
“We shall mourn him, and we shall await the successor of the Monado with eager hearts.” The crowd repeated the words the person leading the ceremony had spoken in a low murmur not unlike a chant. Ceremonies like this never failed to unsettle him. He was only glad that he didn’t have to say anything like that; he didn’t have to worship himself, after all (gods, that sounded bad).
Mostly, he felt empty. This was probably the last time he’d be out in public that didn’t involve everyone literally having to worship the ground he walked on. But he couldn’t make the most of it or anything because...he couldn’t.
Maybe he wasn’t sad that his father was dead, exactly, and maybe he wasn’t grieving, but he didn’t feel like he could do much about anything at the moment. It was silly, because he was meant to be outside of fate and all of that, but he felt like he couldn’t do anything beyond what was expected of him. But he couldn’t feel how he was expected to feel, which meant he felt like he couldn’t act at all.
“Shulk,” a voice said quietly, and he jumped out of his thoughts and looked around. It was Reyn. He smiled at him, and Shulk managed to smile back. “I think it would be best if we went back now. So you can privately mourn.” Shulk could hear the sarcasm at that in Reyn’s voice, and he wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Was he that obvious, or did Reyn just know him that well?
“Okay,” he managed. His voice sounded sort of far away. He needed to get a handle on this and not worry Reyn, but he couldn’t. He felt so strange and distant and-
“Come on,” Reyn said, a little more insistently this time. He must have zoned out again. “I think you need some time away from all these people. I’ll get you something to eat when we get back to the palace, whether you want to eat it or not.” That meant that Reyn would eat it if he didn’t, probably. Shulk didn’t think he’d eat much today.
“Will you stay?” He asked. To any onlooker, it was an innocent request. The heir to the Monado asking his bodyguard to stay nearby on the day he was possibly most vulnerable. Perfectly normal. Reyn walked behind him as they returned to the palace and Shulk kept his head down, acting as if he was filled with sadness at his father being laid to rest.
As soon as they were in Shulk’s wing of the palace, he fell into step with Reyn and immediately reached out for his hand. It was their usual routine, yet Reyn seemed surprised today. Reyn squeezed his hand in a way that sort of served as comforting, but it was mostly grounding. “How are you feeling?”
“I…” His voice faded as soon as he started. “Give me a moment,” he managed, collecting his thoughts. Reyn just nodded, and they kept walking in silence for a few moments. “I feel okay.” Reyn scoffed. “As in, I feel fine, but I know I shouldn’t, because I just went to my father’s funeral.”
“If it helps, you don’t seem fine,” Reyn said, and Shulk just about managed a smile at that. “You’re all spacy and withdrawn. I mean, I know you don’t like people much, but that was on another level today.”
“I’ve felt worse recently,” he admitted. He hated talking so openly about this kind of thing, ever aware that people could easily use his weaknesses, but he knew it was safe to talk with Reyn. Talking to Reyn was good, even. It helped. “I’m worried about the future.”
“You don’t have to worry about it for long,” Reyn joked, and Shulk knew exactly where this one was going, but he didn’t stop him. “In a couple weeks you’ll be able to see the future. It does work like that, right? That’s not a fantasy your ancestors concocted?” Shulk smiled.
“I’ll be able to see the future,” he said. “My grandfather took me through it once and showed me what it was like, thinking I would never experience it. It’s really strange. I’m more worried that it will...do to me what it did to my father.”
Reyn was silent for a moment, which honestly just made him feel worse. That meant that he was worried about it too. He didn’t want Reyn to worry about whether he was going to be alive in three weeks or not. He wanted Reyn to be happy, and he knew that this was kind of an impossible situation to be happy in, but he wanted it anyway. “You’re better than that, man,” he said. Shulk tried to smile.
“You may not have liked him, but my father was very good at being Lord Zanza.” Despite being alone, he said that quietly; Reyn was supposed to be a normal citizen, and normal citizens didn’t have any feelings other than reverence for any of the wielders of the Monado. Reyn just wasn’t like that, and he knew Shulk’s father a little more personally, too.
“I’ll fight the Monado for you if it tries to take you away from me,” Reyn said, the conviction in his voice unwavering. Shulk’s breath caught in his chest; Reyn always knew just what to say. “Now come on, stop worrying. You can stress later. And if you- if you really think you’re- if it’s going to go south when you take up your title, well, we have two weeks to make the most of this, right?”
“I love you,” Shulk said, delighting more than a little in the way Reyn blushed. He squeezed his hand, and Reyn smiled at him again. “You’re right, we have two weeks, and I think I have a really good idea for what comes after.”