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1001 Nights

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Arisato Minato opened his eyes to a room awash with darkness.

Still night then, he thought and pushed himself out of bed. The only source of light comes from the open window on the side of the room. He walked over. A full moon sat afloat in the night sky, glowing a harsh florescent green that lit up the sky in the same grotesque shade.

He gazed up at the night intently. There was something he must remember, something he needed to do, but what? And just as he gave up trying to remember, the door swung open.

His head turned toward the door, but his eyes were still adjusted to the brightness of the sky and mere darkness met his eyes. Minato closed his eyes. By the time he opened them again, the only person he knew stood in front of him.

“Good evening, Minato,” Pharos said with an easy smile. “Another bed time story, then?”

“If you will,” Minato says. Taking Pharos’ offered hand, he followed him back to his bed. Pharos tucked him in with all of the gentleness of a mother he no longer remembered, and finished it off by pulling the covers all the way up to his chin. “Thank you.”

“I’m happy to help,” Pharos sat at the side of his bed and brushed a couple stray hairs from Minato’s forehead. “Now, what kind of story would my Prince like to hear tonight?”

Pharos’ stories were never quite the same. The night before, he talked about a robot who became a human. The night before that, about a boy who took revenge for his mother. And the night before that, of a man who passed away with a smile. But no mattered what he talked about, Minato always listened on with rapture; for that was his life: after a bed time story, he would fall back into the clutches of sleep, and when he awoke once again, Pharos would be ready with another story.

“Surprise me.”

“As you wish,” Pharos said, and folded his hands across his lap. Minato closed his eyes and waited. “Once upon a time, there was a King who did not wish to become King. The King much preferred to sleep, you see. He liked to nap in bed, in trees, and over his paperwork scattered about his desk.”

“So why did he become the King?”

“You see, the King had many friends. These friends knew the King was the strongest of them all. The ice fencer said the King would be the best leader because of this strength. The electric martial artist agreed, and said he would much rather take the time to train his body. The fire yankee had his doubts at first, but soon agreed the King was a great leader. The wind mage noted that the King had the best control over his powers, and said she would follow him.”

“What power did this King have?”

“Everything, Minato. The King could breathe fire as if it were second nature, manipulate the wind into tempestuous storms, create crystals of ice from thin air, and call down crackling beams of lightning from the heavens. The King understood that he had the power to protect his friends, and so they built a great nation. But one day, there came something the King could not protect his people from.”

Minato’s hands tightened around his covers and he felt a twinge within his heart. This story… seemed familiar. But why? Why does it feel like he’s forgetting something deeply deeply important to him?

Perhaps sensing the confusion within his heart, Pharos laid a hand over Minato’s, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles comfortingly. But still he continued the story, “The Night decided this world shall return to its original form. For people had begun to fall into stagnation, and called upon Chaos to bring about the End. So the Night, following Chaos’ call, declared war upon the King’s nation. The King was worried. Strong as he was, he could not protect his people against a force of nature.”

“But— but there’s got to be something—” Minato said desperately.

“Yes, the King realized there was only one thing he could do. Though he could not defeat the Night, if he could Seal away Chaos, there would be no way for the Night to reach his people. However, the only Seal strong enough that not even the Night nor Chaos could break through would cost him his life.”

A pang of pain rang through his skull, and Minato yelped out.

“Are you alright?” Pharos immediately reached out, stroking a hand through his hair. “Shall I stop here for tonight? You may want to rest—”

“No,” Minato shook his head. “I— I don’t quite understand, but I need to hear this. Please, finish the story, Pharos.”

“I… alright, I understand,” Pharos took a deep breath in, and then continued. “The King’s friends were against this, of course. They did not wish to leave it solely to the King, but they also knew that the King would not back down. So instead of stopping the King, they spend their last days together creating precious memories together. When the time finally came for the King to sacrifice himself, he did so with a smile. The end.”

“Thanatos!” Minato yelled, pressing the Evoker hard against his temple and pulling the trigger. Though it wasn’t a real gun, the sound of the shot always sounded incredibly real. The Nyx Avatar loomed imposingly in front of his eyes, but the the form of Thanatos behind him brought him solace. He would prevail within this battle. He must. This battle alone, he could not afford to fail.

Ah.

Minato understood.

“Where are we, Ryoji?”

Ryoji smiled, “We are inside a space of your own creation. There is a condition we must fulfill if we are to leave this place. However, this place is of your creation, I do not know of that condition. So tell me, Minato, where are we?”

“It doesn’t take a grand gesture. You don’t have to make a big production out of it, but…” Akinari’s mother smiled through the tears glinting in her eyes. “If you love someone, let them know it.”

But how? How could he when the one he loved was already—

“We are… trapped in the depths of my only regret,” Minato said, closing his eyes. “But if I— if I tell you— then we’ll no longer be…”

Suddenly, Ryoji stood up and walked towards the window. He looked out into the night sky before turning back to face Minato, “Every night here, I have told you a story from your own life. Finally, I have run out of stories to tell. As all stories come to an end, so will the one we are living in right now. If there was a single thing I regretted within the month I lived with you in Gekkoukan, it’s that the month was too short. The things I wished I had the chance to tell you, I have weaved into my stories. Were my feelings able to reach you?”

“The boy wondered if he was allowed to hold onto such emotions. For he was not human, and therefore should not cross paths with the human he held so dear.”

“They have.”

“Can I hear your answer?”

Minato pressed his hands into his eyes and breathed in deeply. Could he? Did he have the strength to leave this dream behind? He sighed, lifted his hands from his eyes, and met Ryoji’s eyes.

“The month we spent together… was like a dream. It was a dream I never wanted to wake up from, that’s how I found myself here in my last moments,” he swallowed. “For leaving behind your most precious possession to me, thank you. For not being able to save you from your fate, I’m sorry. I love you, Ryoji. Goodbye.”

“I love you too, Minato,” Ryoji said fondly. His body slowly lit up with warm yellow light, and when it got so blinding that Minato could hardly keep his eyes open, Ryoji shattered with a crack. Each one of the shattered pieces continued to crack and break until there was only thin dust glowing throughout the air. When the sand finally settled down, the room was bright with the morning sun.

The sky outside was an azure blue and the sound of chirping birds filled the brisk morning air. Minato stretched before hopping out of bed. He twisted the ring around his finger before reaching for the door.

Gold filled his vision as he felt his body stiffening. He smiled for one last time and—

The door shut behind him as the room faded into pure white.