"You loved him, didn't you?" The Maou's voice was quiet and a little unsure, as though he suspected his question to be truth, but could not be certain. Murata had been staring off into space, a small, slightly wistful smile curling his lips. Instead of studying the encyclopaedia of a book that Gunter insisted he read, Yuuri was trying to work out the source of the uncharacteristic expression on his friend's face. It had only been a week since they had defeated Soushi, and the Sage had been...different, ever since. He had been his usual silly, fun-loving self back on Earth. But here...
He supposed Shin Makoku was different. It had memories that Earth did not.
Startled out of his reverie by Yuuri's question, Murata turned to the young King. "Huh?" Though he had heard full-well what Yuuri asked, the Sage stumbled over giving an answer. Pretenting ignorance, he ordered his thoughts once more, and tried to refocus.
Yuuri pushed on, less confidant now that the question had been asked. "I-I mean, the Shinou, did you...um, sorry, nevermind...I shouldn't have asked." The Maou flushed and attempted to hide behind the book on his lap. The motion proved to be quite a feat, as he'd been barely able to lift it the two feet from the table Gunter had left it on to where he now sat.
Murata grinned at his friend's comical attempt at hiding. "It's fine, Shibuya...and yes, I did love him." His gaze drifted to the window. This side of the library faced the mountain range that cradled the castle. Not that the towering peaks could really be seen; rain had drizzled on and off for most of the day, driving the castle folk inside and putting Yuuri at the mercy of Gunter's lecturing. "Still do," he added as an afterthought.
A silence fell that was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. "I'm sorry," Yuuri uttered at last.
"Well, if I hadn't come along...he'd still...be here. Sort of."
Murata snorted softly. "No. If you hadn't been here, he would still be trapped. Neither alive, nor dead, hanging in eternal purgatory, and corrupted by the Soushi's taint.
"I've worked for thousands of years to bring about his freedom. I would not give all of that up just to have him here for my own selfish reasons."
"Oh," Yuuri pondered those words a while before speaking again. "Do you miss him?"
Their eyes met, black on black; both hiding such immense power behind innocent, dark shrouds.
"Do I miss him? In some ways, yeah. But I know he's still with me." The Sage's fingers brushed absently over his heart. "Even if he's no longer here. I know I'll see him again; whether in this life, the next, or beyond. It's not something I only hope for, but something I am certain of."
Murata's reply, and the sincere certainty in dark, ancient eyes, struck a chord deep in Yuuri. He thought, for the first time in his life, that he might just believe in soulmates, after all.