I’ve notice that many Royai shippers like to imagine that Roy and Riza were romantically or sexually involved pre-canon (probably because they like the thought of each of these two characters having lost their virginity to the other – and don’t want to think that Riza remained a virgin until post-canon, or that she lost her virginity to someone else), and that’s something that I personally disagree with.
This is what prompted me to write this post about Royai.
But before I go any further, I just want to say that my intention is not to criticize anyone’s opinion; I’m only sharing my personal thoughts with the rest of you wonderful people who ship my OTP.
I’m going to break this down into several sections based on the different stages of Roy and Riza’s lives for the sake of clarity. Hopefully this isn’t too laborious to read.
Roy’s Apprenticeship at the Hawkeye Estate:
I should begin by addressing the issue of age difference between Riza and Roy.
We know that in 1905, Roy returns to the Hawkeyes’ to retrieve the secrets of Flame Alchemy from Berthold. He is twenty, and has just graduated from the military academy.
In 1908, the Extermination begins in Ishval; Roy is twenty-three and Riza is in her last year at the academy. We can assume, based off of this information, that enlistment age is seventeen and that it takes three years to graduate. It also means that Roy and Riza’s age difference is close to three years.
Let’s just imagine that Roy is fourteen when he begins his apprenticeship, and that Riza is eleven. When he leaves, he’s about seventeen, which would make her fourteen.
As adults, this age difference hardly counts for anything, but as kids, it’s fairly significant. Riza isn’t old enough at this point for Roy to show interest in her.
During their time living together, they slowly build a steady friendship. He’s the only friend Riza really ever has, and they’re both glad someone else is there to keep them company. The extent of any romantic feelings between them might be a one-sided, ephemeral crush on Riza’s part (but she certainly won’t admit that to anyone – probably not even to herself).
They part as friends, and even though they’re not the closest of friends, they hope to meet in the future.
Learning the Secrets of Flame Alchemy:
Three years later, Roy is twenty, and Riza is seventeen. The age difference factor is starting disappear. I imagine he notices her as a young woman at this point.
When her father dies, Roy stays with Riza, and he acts like family to her when she has none.
Riza’s revelation of the tattoo is a turning point - it triggers a range of emotions in both of them.
Roy never imagined that Berthold would have inked his research onto his daughter’s skin, and he probably wonders if he was around when it happened. He wonders if it wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed around, and guilt and anger surface.
Riza herself is in a period of mourning, even though her relationship with her father wasn’t a very close one. She’s just heard Roy’s ideals to change the country; he is, in a sense, her only beacon of hope, because she doesn’t know what to do with herself anymore. She is vulnerable – physically and emotionally – when she shares the secrets with him.
If Roy made a move towards her, if he tried to have sex with her, or press himself on her in any way that exceeded the limits of their relationship as it stood, he would have be taking advantage of her. That’s really all there is to it.
Right now, all he can do is accept what she’s given him and make the most of it. He probably makes plans to come back for his friend – after all, Berthold entrusted her to him – and maybe he hopes they’ll become more than friends when the time is right.
The Ishvalan War of Extermination:
Unfortunately for them, things don’t turn out as planned. They both fell in love with the same dream only to watch it crumble.
Once Riza arrives in Ishval, she hears stories of the Flame Alchemist from the other soldiers, and immediately knows who they’re talking about. Eventually their paths cross (when she saves his life for the very first time), and of course Roy hasn’t forgotten her either.
They are both traumatized by what’s going on; they are two of the best killers in the entire Amestrian army.
Flame Alchemy is Riza’s burden to carry, so she believes that all of the lives Roy is taking are lives she is responsible for taking as well. In a sense, her burden is twice as heavy.
Roy himself believes that she hates him for that – he took her trust and abused it. He also failed to keep his word to Master Hawkeye. He didn’t look after his daughter.
Riza thinks that he hates her too, that he hates her for the mess he’s in. Basically, they feel as though they’ve betrayed each other.
There’s no room here for romance. There is the possibility that they ended up having sex for the sake of feeling human, in a sense. They were trapped in the desert, murdering hundreds of people, so sex would have been a sort of comfort. But honestly, that would only have happen if they weren’t in a clear state of mind (I’m sure there was alcohol going around, but I doubt they were drinking frequently during the war. They had to stay alert and lucid if they didn’t want to get killed.).
And it’s also important to keep in mind the fact that Roy and Riza are both people who will deny themselves pleasure and happiness if they don’t think they’ve deserved it. They’re taking part in genocide – how could they allow themselves to forget for a second? How could they try to escape?
Then Riza asks Roy to burn her back. She figures that she’s asking a lot from him, and that he’ll only hate her more for making him hurt her, but it’s the only way to set herself free. Roy accepts, and hates himself for hurting her, and thinks she hates him for all the mistakes he’s made. Riza had told him that it was her decision to become a soldier and to burn the tattoo, but he can’t help but blame himself.
They won’t be having sex or starting a romantic relationship here – the war has torn them apart, at least for the moment.
Now comes the longer part of their relationship.
When Riza comes back to work for him, they begin to understand that they can try to atone for everything they’ve done, that they can prevent it from happening again. Their dream isn’t dead, but they had to jump a huge hurdle to keep moving forwards.
They begin to truly understand each other, they know each other inside out and can communicate most of the time without saying much. They’ve forgiven each other, and grown as individuals. Riza is a different woman, Roy knows she’s not the girl who lived in the Hawkeye estate anymore, and she’s not the cadet who fought in Ishval either. She has the strength to support him though his rise through the ranks, and will do anything in order to do so.
They wouldn’t start a romantic relationship during this time. Their goal is too important for them to risk having an office affair. They could lose too much, and honestly they’re very happy just being at the other’s side for the time being, not to mention that they have a lot to worry about (homunculi, throwing a coup…) They haven’t entirely acknowledged their feelings yet. It all lies beneath the surface, and they know there’s something there, they just haven’t addressed it.
The breaking point, the turn of their relationship, would be after the series is over. The Promised day and everything that happened leading up to it would force them to recognize that they do have strong feelings for each other, and that they should act on them.
When they begin to restore Ishval, they realize that they’re able to finally do some good. They realize that they should be able to live happily together, and to the fullest extent possible - it brings about a new stage in their relationship.
Grumman is Fuhrer at this point (and come on, we all know he ships Royai), so the danger of being demoted or having charges pressed against them for fraternization is practically non-existent. They’re careful, and they’re secretive about it. It’s the right time for them to begin a romantic relationship – their lives and feelings for each other are far more stable than they’ve ever been, and they hope that someday, when he becomes Fuhrer, they’ll be able to make their relationship public.
So honestly, I don’t really see it playing out much differently than this. By the time Roy and Riza get together, they’re adults, and they know that the relationship will be long-lasting. They’re stable, confident, comfortable, and they trust each other in every way.